MANSFIELD, Mass. – The regular season is firmly in the rearview mirror for the Mansfield boys soccer team. The focus is now on making a statement in the Hockomock Cup postseason tournament.
That quest started on Tuesday for the Hornets, the second-seed out of the Kelley-Rex division, with a very business-like performance in the form of a 2-0 win over Foxboro, the Davenport’s third-place club.
The Hornets spent most of the 80 minutes pushing the ball up field, putting a lot of pressure on Foxboro’s back four with services into the area. Almost every restart from the attacking half turned into a long back into the box, putting a lot of stress on the Warrior defense.
Not only did it result in a pair of goals and a dozen more chances, but it also helped prevent the Warriors from building anything out of the back. The high pressure would often force a big clearance out of the back that the Hornets would collect and put right back into the mix in the final third.
“We should have had about 10 goals but we just didn’t finish,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “But we put the pressure on them…we did what we practiced except for the finishing. I expected us to play that way, been expecting it for a while, we finally did it today when it counts. I expect a tight game, I expected it to be maybe a little more chippy. But it was a good game I’m happy with it.”
It took Mansfield less than two minutes to get on the front foot with a good bid on goal. Dylan Buchanan did well to take down a long ball, touch around a defender and blasted a left-footed shot that was denied on a good saver from Nick Penders, tipping the shot over the bar.
The chances continued to come for the hosts, sophomore Grady Sullivan with a bid in the 12th minute and junior Matt Hyland had his cross-turned-shot scooped up by Penders two minutes later. A nice combo from Sagar Koul and Buchanan led to a shot by the former, but wide, in the 25th minute. And a minute later, Aidan Steele latched onto a turnover and looped the ball over a defender but Penders was quick off his line.
Mansfield boys soccer Foxboro boys soccer
Foxboro found its footing a bit as it built out of the back from Penders. Max Beigel found some space along the right-wing before centering to Matt Angelini, but his low shot from distances was gobbled up by Mansfield keeper Eric Sullivan.
The Hornets came very close in the 29th minute, a service from Tommy Lanzillo on a corner found Koul alone in front but the close-range bid was over the bar.
But just before the halftime whistle, Mansfield finally cashed in. After the Warriors were able to counter, the Hornets came right back up field on a counter of their own, taking advantage of space in the final third.
Starting with Sullivan, the Hornets pushed forward before Lanzillo collected possession just over half, quickly turning and finding Hyland streaking in alone down the left side. After taking a touch, Hyland deposited a shot inside the near post past the oncoming keeper for a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
“I don’t think [Mansfield] did anything special to stop us, we started in a 4-3-2-1 which isn’t conducive to hold the ball a lot, we were looking to counter,” said first-year Foxboro coach Dan Ambrosio. “I think my boys were a little intimidated, [Mansfield] is a bit bigger, more physical, faster…and they are really organized in the back.
“With the way they play, you kind of have to put defense first and it’s not the prettiest game to watch. It’s effective in a way in this situation, and it’s been their style for years. It’s just one of those things, you try to pack it in to respond to their style of play.”
Mansfield boys soccer Foxboro boys soccer
The second half started just as the first did, Mansfield’s pressure paying off as Michael Caridi intercepted a pass out of the back, found Hyland out wide for a cross to Steele but Foxboro’s Justin Neale, who alongside his brother Jeremy had standout games at outside back, was quick to recover to thwart the chance.
Mansfield kept at it and quickly added a second goal. A kick in on the far side from Ethan Scholes was played low into the area, taking a pair of deflections right to the feet of Lanzillo, who was by himself at the far post. He quickly put the ball on his right foot and blasted a low shot out of the reach of Penders to make it 2-0.
“That’s one of the main reasons we’re playing with so much pressure, we don’t want to let them out,” Sheridan said. “I hadn’t seen tape on them this year, but I was told they like to get the ball to [Matt Angelini] and [Max Beigel] and play through them, play one on one. I’ll take almost anyone in this league one-on-one with our goals. We didn’t want them to get the ball to them.”
Foxboro had a couple of attempts to get back into the mix but couldn’t get one past Sullivan. Junior Cam Barreira looped a shot that was caught by Sullivan just under the bar in the 58th minute, and then Foxboro’s best chance — an indirect kick inches from the penalty spot — was blocked away by Evan Eames as the Hornets loaded in front of goal with bodies to prevent a shot on goal.
Mansfield advances to the semifinal round of the Hockomock Cup and will renew acquaintances with a familiar foe in Oliver Ames. The Tigers, who ran through the competition in the Davenport division and sit at 11-0, were Mansfield’s main competition for the Kelley-Rex title for the past four seasons.
“I’m excited to see them play,” Sheridan said. “I’ve watched them afar for the last year, I saw them play indoors down in Weymouth. There’s a level of excitement that comes with playing them, we have one shot at it. This is it for us, hopefully we can make it a good game.”
The Hornet and Tigers will clash at Muscato Stadium in Easton later this week with a date and time yet to be announced. Foxboro will play a consolation game against Franklin this week as well.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – For all intents and purposes, the Milford boys soccer team clinched its third straight division title on Tuesday evening.
But this is 2020, and nothing is quite as straight forward as years past.
The Scarlet Hawks scored once in each half to earn a 2-1 win over Mansfield, leapfrogging the Hornets in the standings. The win puts the Hawks at 6-0-1 and a total of 13 points while Mansfield sits at 5-2-2 and 12 points. The teams play again Thursday, and as it stands now, the Hornets could jump back ahead, but the Hawks have two games in limbo against Taunton.
As of Tuesday night, Milford’s matchups with Taunton were not officially canceled, but all indications point to no makeup games, meaning a pair of 0-0 draws and two points for the Hawks, which would secure the division title at 15 points.
“We don’t care who we play, we’ll play anyone anywhere because we love competition,” said first-year head coach Antonio Pinto. “Obviously the situation with Taunton made it a little harder with points because we don’t know exactly how it will play out…but the kids are treating every game like it’s their last because we don’t know when it could end. Every game, we’ve had the mentality that each game is like a state final because for these seniors it could be the last time they play with each other, with their friends.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
Upon review, the host Hornets would certainly like a second chance to start each half. While Mansfield came out of the front foot, it let a pair of good scoring chances slip away inside the opening two minutes. And to start the second half, the Hawks needed less than two minutes to double their lead by converting a penalty kick.
“The whole first half wasn’t very good for us,” admitted Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “We let them do what they want to do and they got in our heads. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we got a little into their heads. We changed some things up at halftime to try and get going…I didn’t see anything on the penalty kick, hopefully, the video shows me something about it. It didn’t look like one from where we were.”
Pressure from Hornet senior Michael Jeans created a turnover in the attacking third and a chance in the are for sophomore Aidan Steele but Milford senior goalie Leo Oliveira was quick to react and intervened before a genuine bid on net.
Just a minute later, a service to the far post from senior Evan Eames found juniorMatt Hyland but once again Oliveira was there for the stop.
Chances were aplenty for both sides throughout the first half but the Hawks slowly started to assert themselves and take control of the play. It started with their first real chance on net which resulted in the first goal of the game.
A quick combination from seniors Lucas Da Silva and Leo Coelho resulted in a pass to the far post where sophomore Arthur Tome was left alone and he latched onto a shot with the inside of his right foot, tucking a shot inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
Mansfield nearly equalized three minutes later, a combination from sophomore Connor Palinski and junior Dan Rowe with the latter rifling a shot on net that was denied by a one-handed save from Oliveira.
An errant pass out of the back from Oliveira nearly resulted in the equalizer but the keeper was able to recover quickly and get down to stop a low bid from Hyland. And in the 29th minute, Oliveira once again was called into action, this time denying a bid from Grady Sullivan from a step inside the area.
“We went with a keeper change for this game, going with Cheeseburger [Leo Oliveira],” Pinto said. “He’s our big game keeper, every year he always steps up in the big games. Cheeseburger does a good job coming out and commanding the box, and that’s what we needed in this matchup. He stepped up big for us, he didn’t just do well coming off his line, he made some saves that were spectacular.”
Milford boys soccer Mansfield boys soccer
The Hawks started to gain some momentum before the half as junior David Desa intercepted a pass out of the back, leading to a counter chance that saw Coelho link up with Tome but his shot was denied by Mansfield keeper Eric Sullivan. Just minutes later, Hulanger Dias Pires won an important battle at midfield that ended up in a blast off the foot from Desa but Sullivan was equal to the task.
Milford started fast in the second half, using a nice combination down the left side to get Tome the ball. Tome used a quick touch to get around the defender before being taken down just inside the area and the refs awarded the visitors a penalty kick. Da Silva stepped up and confidently deposited a low shot into the bottom right corner for a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
“At halftime, we made some changes and the players reacted well,” Pinto said. “Mansfield had only allowed one goal against going into tonight so we knew if we wanted to score, we couldn’t let them get organized. It had to be quick touches, quick passes, quick flicks…just like we did to open the second half, and then Arthur made a nice move to draw the penalty. That’s how you beat them, you can’t let them get organized you have to attack quickly and that’s how we got both goals.”
Mansfield nearly pulled one back in the 53rd minute when Tommy Lanzillo laced a direct free kick destined for the top corner but Oliveira timed his jump perfectly and tipped it over the bar. Another free kick bid from Lanzillo in the 65th minute was originally spilled by Oliveira but he quickly pounced on the loose ball in front.
The Hornets finally cashed in on a direct free kick attempt in the 67th minute as Rowe blasted a shot from atop the area into the top corner at the near post to make it 2-1. Mansfield’s best chance at the equalizer came in the 75th minute when a ball over the top was chested on by Dylan Buchanan to Sagar Koul but his low shot was easily handled. Last ditch efforts were turned away by Milford center back Chris Tocci.
“They pressured us and didn’t give us much space to play our normal game so we had to adjust and make everything a little quicker,” Pinto said. “We have a bunch of Brazilians playing in the cold so it took us a little while to get warm. But that was a fight, no matter who they play Mansfield is always going to give you a game just by their style so you have to fight the entire way.”
The teams will clash again on Thursday as Milford hosts Mansfield for a 6:00 PM kickoff.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan has pleaded for his players to start shooting more when they have opportunities in the final third.
On Monday afternoon, the Hornets took heed of their coach’s request.
After scoring four goals in its opening four games, the Mansfield boys soccer team equaled that output as four different Hornets found the back of the net in a 4-0 win on the road over Attleboro in the HockomockSports Game of the Week.
The Hornets wasted little time, scoring a pair of goals in the first quarter to jump ahead early and then tacked on goals in each the third and fourth quarters to get their fourth win of the season.
“Our forwards are finally starting to shoot,” Sheridan said. “I think we had more shots today than we’ve had all season. We’ve got a couple of guys that are finally starting to get it. I’ve been screaming since we started to take more shots. We spend more time on shooting in practice and then we get to a game and we don’t take them. We took them today, I was happy with how we played today.”
Mansfield boys soccer
Mansfield scored a pair of signature goals, pushing numbers into the area and cashing in on loose chances in the area. But the Hornets also showed some versatility in their offense as junior Matt Hyland and senior Tommy Lanzillo scored on class shots from distance.
Just over five minutes into the contest, a clearance popped out to Mansfield senior Michael Jeans, who popped a service high back into the box. Attleboro’s keeper was unable to catch it cleanly and Mansfield junior Sagar Koul was exactly where he needed to be, following up the loose ball and roofing his touch just under the bar for a 1-0 lead.
And a minute later, Jackson Singer found Soucy, who got a touch to the ball before Lasbury-Casey and then followed up on the loose ball in the area but a slide from Ethan Scholes and a block from Jeans kept the ball out.
“We played very well, I like my defense, Evan [Eames] and [Michael] Caridi played phenomenal back there, especially in the second half,” Sheridan said. “Michael [Jeans] saved a bunch of balls back there. We finally got our three center midfielders [Lanzillo, Colin True, Sullivan] to start working together. They weren’t communicating enough. But now they’re talking, they know whos making a run up and who needs to drop back, moving side to side together. It’s basically what’s connected everything, us starting to communicate.”
Mansfield boys soccer
Mansfield’s pressure paid off just before the end of the first quarter. Sophomore Aidan Steele forced a giveaway, junior Dan Rowe quickly squared a pass to Hyland, who let the ball come across his body before blasting a shot from just over 30 yards out, catching the keeper off his line as it floated just under the bar.
“We were missing heart,” said Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira. “Mansfield played their game which is boot, boot, boot and they capitalized on some of those. We weren’t disciplined enough to play our game which is touch. We had no offense today. [Our players] want to blame the ref for everything but we had two of the best in the league today so you can’t say it’s the ref. We just lost our cool and could never get going.
“They run at you and they create some crazy stuff. They play the long balls and there’s a bounce here or there and they capitalize on them. They played their game better than we played ours. But we see them in two days and hopefully, it will be a little bit different.”
The second quarter was mostly played between the two 18-yard lines, the best chance coming off the foot of Steele. Both Steele and Rowe pressured the Bombardier defense, resulting in a turnover and a low shot from Steele but Attleboro backup keeper Cody Abreu, who took over the middle of the period, handled the bounce well.
Mansfield added to its lead in the 49th minute, again capitalizing on numbers and high pressure in the area. Lanzillo whipped in a cross from the left wing and Hyland was there to meet it after making a near post run but his touch hit the post and stayed out. It bounced right to Grady Sullivan, who touched it over to Scholes for the finish and a 3-0 lead.
“For us, it’s important to attack in numbers,” Sheridan said. “And that’s why we can’t have anyone taking a play off. We need everyone to keep doing. We have the numbers to put different guys in. With the new rules with 20 minute quarters, I don’t expect to have to sub too often but I can if I have to. We want them to go really hard for 8-12 minutes and then we’ll get someone fresh in there.”
Attleboro looked to answer five minutes alter as Henriquez and Singer combined to create for the Bombardiers, the result a shot from Justin Lurssen but his bid was partially blocked and bounced harmlessly to Lasbury-Casey.
Mansfield added one more goal in the 64th minute. Lanzillo played a ball into the area that was cleared away but Lanzillo alertly tracked down the loose ball and put his laces through a bouncing ball that curled into the near post from 30 yards out.
Mansfield (4-1) will host the Bombardiers (0-3) in a rematch on Wednesday night at 6:45.
2019 Record: 6-9-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Peter Pereira
One more goal scored or one goal less allowed could have changed the entire outcome of the 2019 season for the Bombardiers, who suffered six one-goal losses and three draws. Now with more varsity experience under their belts, Attleboro is aiming to surprise some teams in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division title this season.
Longtime head coach Peter Pereira is counting on that experience to translate into leadership on and off the field. Senior goalie Zackary Brown is back in net for the Bombardiers and is showing more confidence inside the area. Senior Joey Soucy is making the transition to defense and will play alongside classmates Jayden Lockhart and Andrew Fasoldt. Junior Cashel Stuger is also back in the mix defensively while seniors Henry Marini and Alejandro Jimenez could factor into the defensive unit as well.
Jackson Singer emerged as a strong option in the midfield in his first season with the Bombardiers and should be a big piece again this year. Singer will pair up with Hugo Henriquez to give Attleboro an experienced duo in the heart of the pitch. Seniors Ben Fasoldt, Emilio Amaya, and Tyler Sar will all be apart of the midfield while juniors Tom Russo and Emilio Ticas should see valuable minutes for the Bombardiers. Freshman Alex Vecchioli has shown a lot of versatility so far and could play in a variety of roles.
Up front, Attleboro will be relying on a combination of speed, tough, and work effort as they challenge opposing defenses. Depending on the pairing, Attleboro will be able to attack in a variety of ways. Seniors Justin Lurssen and Connor Paquin as well as juniors Liam Bischoff and Yianni Skordas will all see time in the attack. Sophomore Esvin Morales emerged as one of the top attacking threats a year ago and will be among the top finishers in the league.
“We have a good group of seniors and hope that this experience will pay off,” Pereira said. “We believe we will have a more competitive, more mature, and more balanced team.”
2019 Record: 4-12-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Danny Erickson
The Bulldogs were very young during the 2019 season with just a half dozen seniors on the squad, but that meant plenty of young players were able to gain valuable on-field experience at the varsity level. Now the Bulldogs will be looking to contend in a very competitive Davenport division in the shortened 2020 season.
The defense will be the backbone of the team this season as the Bulldogs have a lot of experience at the centerback position. Senior captain Matt Giglio is back for his third year with the squad after being a key piece in each of the previous two years. He will be joined in the middle of the defense by Will Keefe, who anchored the Dogs’ backline last year and earned All-Hockomock honors.
Junior Dylan Baird had a breakout sophomore season and will be one of the main pieces in the midfield. After a down season for Canton on the offensive end as a whole last year, Baird’s presence in the midfield will help create opportunities going forward. Up front, the Bulldogs are counting on senior Colton Marliani to be a go-to scoring threat.
Canton already suffered a big blow as senior captain TJ McCabe, who has been with the squad since he was a freshman, will miss the season due to injury. On the flip side, the Bulldogs are getting a boost with the addition of Abdul Barrie. Barrie played in the youth leagues in Canton but will make his CHS debut this fall and could make a big impact for the Dogs.
“I think the rule modifications will challenge us all equally,” said longtime Canton head coach Danny Erickson. “But after a week or so of training, to me, it’s still soccer.”
2019 Record: 7-8-3 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Ambrosio
The Warriors had a sour taste in their mouth at the end of last season, losing the last game of the year to miss out on the playoffs. While Foxboro won’t have the chance to get back to the postseason this year, the Davenport division title is certainly in reach.
Foxboro graduated a couple of stalwarts (Joe Cusack, Dylan Barreira, Will Morrison) that were important pieces of the squad in each of the last couple of seasons, but there are plenty of experienced players back from last year’s seven-win squad plus a handful of new faces anxious to make their mark. Seniors Max Beigel and PJ Frost will give the Warriors plenty of leadership and experience, especially in the midfield and attacking third. Foxboro will look to play quick, using the counterattack to hit on the break.
After giving up nearly two goals a game a season ago, the Warriors are aiming to tighten up the back as they navigate through a very competitive Davenport division. First-year head coach Dan Ambrosio is also counting on new players like John Hollis and Ryan Flaherty to make an impact during the shortened season.
“We are a tight-knit group who like to have fun playing the game and look forward to representing our school and town,” Ambrosio said.
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Fran Bositis
With returning players in most areas of the pitch and a trio of top midfielders in the Hockomock League, the Panthers should be in the mix for the Kelley-Rex title, although it could be one of the most competitive seasons since the league split into two.
With just 10 games and all six teams in the Kelley-Rex possible contenders, there is little margin for error. The Panthers will be put to the test right away as they take on Milford, who won the Davenport two years in a row and went to the D2 State Final last season, in the opening week. But longtime head coach Fran Bositis has plenty of talent on his roster to try and make a push for the division title. It all starts in the midfield with a trio of returning starters in Ethan Cain, Tyler Powderly, and last year’s HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Terry O’Neill.
All three bring something different to the table which will make Franklin’s midfield among the most dynamic in the league. Powderly’s speed on the wings will give defenses fits while Cain will bring plenty of creativity as the Panthers push forward. O’Neill won’t be able to dominate in the air like he did a season ago thanks to the new modifications that ban headers, but the junior is also such a calming presence with the ball at his feet and will help Franklin keep possession. Ben Moccia, who started in the midfield a season ago, is moving up top to the number 9 spot, while Charlie Amante, Ryan Witt, Jack Moran, and Kevin Proenca will also see time in the attack.
The Panthers have some new faces in the defensive unit. Will Fox is the lone returning starter and has impressed in the early stages of the season. Sam George, Robbin Tappin, and Karl Gruseck will all factor into the Panthers’ defense while Aidan Griffith, Nelson Martinez, and Connor Scagliarini will be options for Bositis to play either defense or in the midfield. Newcomers Trey Lovell and Rex Cinelli could see valuable minutes right away. Former Panther standout goalie Freddie Backmann, who is without a season at Regis College, is mentoring Luc Boudreau, this year’s starting keeper for Franklin.
“I think that we have a very good group of athletes (soccer players) who have worked real hard in preparation for this season,” Bositis said. “I know that they are all excited to be playing and that they are looking forward to competing against the other Kelley-Rex teams and putting themselves in a position to challenge for a league championship.”
2019 Record: 8-5-6 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Mike O’Neill
King Philip was the surprise team of the 2019 season, overcoming a large amount of inexperience to take third in the Kelley-Rex and qualify for the state tournament. While the Warriors won’t sneak up on anyone this season, the skill and experience they return should put them in the mix for the division title.
Second-year head coach Mike O’Neill has strong players in all areas of the pitch, starting with senior captain Evan McEvoy. A four-year player with the program, McEvoy is coming off a breakout season in 2019 and will be among the top midfielders in the league. He will control the pace for the Warriors from the center of the pitch, working with fellow captain Alex Leon, who will use his speed to patrol the wings and get in behind the defense. Both Caleb Waxman and Stephen Griffin made an impact last season and should see expanded roles in the shortened 2020 season. Sophomore Matt Crago is a new face that could make a splash in his first year.
The Warriors should have one of the top defenses in the league again this season. Senior captain Aidan Lindmark is back in goal and his distribution skills will factor in heavily to how KP plays out of the back. Jeremy White had a strong 2019 season at center back and will bolster the Warriors’ backline when he returns from injury. In the meantime, four-year player Ajae Olsen, who is normally patrolling the wing or up top, will have his versatility on display as he slides into the centerback spot.
“Our players and coaches are thankful that we are at the point where we can have a season,” O’Neill said. “So much work and sacrifice have gone into getting the Hockomock League schools to this moment. I’m looking forward to some excellent and competitive soccer. I expect every game to be extremely competitive – there are no easy games in the Hock. Five wins may win the division.”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Steve Sheridan
With just 10 games scheduled for the season, every game – from the first to the last – is going to be important. No one understands that more than the 2020 Hornets, who came up just short of the state tournament last year. After a slow start, Mansfield became one of the toughest teams to beat down the stretch, finishing on an eight-game unbeaten streak that featured an upset of division champion Oliver Ames but came just one point shy of postseason play.
With the postseason not in the picture for this year, the focus shifts on the division title. The Hornets are hoping to carry the momentum from the end of last season into this year. Mansfield will have a mix of veterans and inexperience in its defensive unit. Senior captain Evan Eames will be the centerpiece of the group alongside classmate Michael Jeans, who missed all of last season due to injury. Sophomores Grady Sullivan and Nate Kablik round out the Hornets’ back four while senior captain Eric Sullivan will take over starting in goal.
Senior captain Tommy Lanzillo will run the show from the center of the pitch, helping the Hornets transition from defense to offense. Lanzillo is strong with the ball at his feet and will help distribute as the Hornets hit on the counter. Senior Colin True and juniors Matt Hyland and Dan Rowe will join Lanzillo in the Hornets’ midfield. Junior Dylan Buchanan is back for his third year with the squad and will play up top alongside Aiden Steele.
2019 Record: 18-1-2 2019 Finish: D2 State Finalists Coach: Antonio Pinta
Milford arrives in the Kelley-Rex division with a huge target on its back. Coming off back-to-back Davenport division titles and a trip to the D2 State Final a season ago, the Hawks enter their new division as the favorite. But game in and game out, Milford can expect to get everyone’s best.
First-year head coach Antonio Pinto might be new to the varsity position but has been with the program during this successful run as an assistant and JV coach. It will all start with the reigning HockomockSports Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP Leo Coelho, who can play just about any position on the pitch at a high level. If there is a need to shut down a high-powered offense, you might see Coelho playing defense. Or if the Hawks need a boost offensively, he can just as easily move up front and provide creativity in the final third.
The Hawks are far from a one-trick pony with both Lucas Da Silva (eight goals, seven assists) and Joao Pedro Da Silva (six goals, three assists) back in the mix this season. Replacing the Hockomock’s leading scorer in Pedro Araujo (25 goals, 11 assists) will be tough but we saw the Hawks do just that when Araujo took over for former HockomockSports Player of the Year Wallison de Oliveira.
Defensively, the Hawks will be strong up the middle. Junior Kevin Gomes returns to start in goal for the Hawks after getting valuable experience there during last year’s season and deep playoff run. And junior Chris Tocci is back in the heart of the defense at centerback after a breakout sophomore campaign. While the new regulations will certainly challenge the Hawks defensively with heading and slide tackling banned, Milford should have a big advantage offensively because of their strong possession skills.
“I’m very excited to be out there with the guys this season,” Pinto said. “We are ready to play no matter what the rules and conditions are! We’re ecstatic to have a season.”
2019 Record: 9-7-4 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal Coach: Geoff Burgess
The Rocketeers and head coach Geoff Burgess have found a recipe for success over the past couple of seasons and will be looking to replicate that again this year. Defense always comes first for the Rocketeers, who allowed just 0.68 goals per game last year. While every team is being forced to make changes because of the new modifications due to COVID-19, the Rocketeers might be affected more than most with heading, slide tackles, and shoulder-to-shoulder challenges banned.
But the Rocketeers have adjusted during the preseason and will be relying on defense and goalkeeping once again this season. Replacing two-time HockomockSports Best XI selection Kyle Briere in net won’t be easy but the North Attleboro is turning to junior David Floyd, who is one of the most athletic players on the team this season according to Burgess. The Rocketeers also boast one of the best centerback combinations in the league with seniors Justin Silva and Donovan Carter back in the fold this year. With a season of experience playing together, it will be tough for teams to find ways to get by the defense anchored by that duo.
While defense remains a top priority for the Big Red, that doesn’t mean North isn’t a dangerous team in the attacking third. As they’ve shown over the past two seasons, speed can kill. Relying on the counterattack and set pieces for the majority of their offensive chances, North brings back senior forward Matt Conley (one goal, five assists) to try and beat defenses with his speed and skill. Junior Connor Ward will have a lot to say about the pace the Rocketeers play at as he orchestrates the team from the center of the pitch.
“With an abbreviated season and a large senior class, we hope to challenge OA for the league title,” Burgess said. “This will obviously be a huge challenge but our defense will be tough to breakdown and you can’t lose if the other team does not score.”
2019 Record: 15-4-0 2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal Coach: John Barata
Oliver Ames has reached the D2 State Final three times since 2014 and with a large group of experienced and skilled players back from last year’s team that went 15-4, another trip to the finals might have been in the cards for 2020. But with postseason canceled due to COVID-19, the Tigers are looking to make as big of an impact as they can.
After a four-year stint in the Kelley-Rex, one that included a pair of division titles (2017 and 2019), the Tigers are back in the Davenport division where they won five titles in the first six years after the Hockomock split. OA brings back nine players that either started or saw a good amount of minutes on the pitch last year, highlighted by HockomockSports Best XI selections Colin Milliken, Brady deVos, and Kevin Louhis. Milliken will help the Tigers transition from defense to offense from his center mid spot, Louhis will be a go-to option on the offensive end, and deVos is back to anchor the defense for the second straight season.
The Tigers will have plenty of options to go along with Milliken (10 goals, 14 assists) and Louhis (4 goals, 9 assists) in the attacking third. Jimmy Keane (six goals, one assist) bolsters the midfield while Anthony DaCosta (six goals, one assist) has improved each of the past two seasons and will be a handful for opposing defenses. Senior Matthew Nikiciuk really emerged as a force in the middle of the pitch last season and will be a big part of the offense, especially through set pieces. Both Mathias Taylor and Dillon Cupples burst onto the scene a year ago and will be in the mix as the Tigers push forward.
Senior goalie Drew Nickla returns in net after a strong year in 2019. The Tigers graduated the most from the defensive unit so the early challenge will be developing chemistry quickly in the backline. Head coach John Barata is also looking for Ben Cohen, Michael Haikal, and Hector Bucio as viable options for the Tigers while sophomore Jake Williams and freshmen Ryan Linhares, Joey Carney, and Diego Rivera are new faces to keep an eye out for.
“We are looking forward to competing this fall and enjoying the opportunity to grow as people and players,” Barata said. “This is a unique situation for a very unique group of players and we are going to make the best of it and play the best soccer we can. These young men are fantastic and we are going to have a great time this season regardless of the on field results…but we hope to have a few of those too!”
2019 Record: 6-7-5 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Scott Nathan
The Eagles enter the 2020 campaign with a chip on their shoulder, coming up just one point shy of the state tournament a year ago. While Sharon can’t make up for that with a tournament appearance this year with the playoffs canceled due to COVID-19, the Eagles can certainly make some noise while challenging for the Davenport division title.
Sharon said goodbye to a handful of experienced veterans including Michael Baur, Brian Higgins, and Isaiah Stessman, but first-year head coach Scott Nathan has a group of proven players plus a bunch of news faces eager to make their mark. Senior captain Bryce Nathan and junior captain James Zhang will lead the way both on and off the pitch this year as the Eagles compete for the Davenport crown.
Bryce Nathan is one of the most versatile players in the league, playing anywhere from defense to striker during his tenure with the Eagles. Zhang, fresh off an impressive sophomore campaign, is very confident with the ball at his feet and does a nice job distributing from the center of the pitch. Sophomore Matthew Baur is back in goal after getting a varsity season under his belt. Rhys Davis and Brandon Mauricio highlight a list of returners defensively while Coby Jacobson, Samid Khandaker, Adam Landstein, Aaron Livshin, and Daniel Zagoren are all back with varsity experience as well.
The Eagles will focus on a sound defense first before transitioning into offense. Patience will be key this year as Sharon looks to make the most of each opportunity as they push forward. Brady Daylor, Malachi Diaz, Adam Eastman, Daniel Fishman, Amjad Kordab, Jack Landstein, Rohan Prakash, Elliot Pototsky Nicholas Rincon, Aaron Tamkin, Jeffrey Xiang, and Tony Yang are new to the varsity level and will be looking to make an impact on the pitch for the Eagles in 2020.
“The game will be different…for players, coaches, referees, and fans,” Scott Nathan said. “I am just happy for the boys that they have the opportunity to play the game they love!”
2019 Record: 3-13-2 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Jon Grant
With a year of experience under coach Jon Grant, the Black Knights are aiming to have a bounce back year and compete with the top teams in the Davenport division.
There were plenty of bumps in the road during the 2019 season but Stoughton certainly showed some bright spots, including wins over Mansfield and Canton. Now the Black Knights will try to compete in each game and string some results together. Captain Nolan Gerome returns in goal for Stoughton and is among the best keepers in the league. Opposing head coaches have raved about saves Gerome has made over the past couple of seasons and he will be the anchor of the Black Knights’ defensive unit.
Playing in front of Gerome will be senior captain Ryan Sears and junior Owen Roddy, who both played valuable minutes last year. With a good amount of experience and skill in the back, Stoughton is hoping defense will be a cornerstone for the 2020 season. Grant is looking for Rhuan Carvalho to be a top playmaker for the Black Knights, distributing from the center of the pitch to create some offensive chances.
“Our goal for this year to improve on last season,” Grant said. “This year the players came in to the short season fairly well conditioned and with a great attitude. All the players are so grateful to have this opportunity to be back out on the field. This will definitely help us in this short season.”
2019 Record: 2-9-7 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Taylor Whitters
It’s easy to look at Taunton’s record from a season ago and make assumptions, but upon further review, the Tigers were in just about every game they played. Five of the nine losses were decided by just one goal and the Tigers had a league-high seven draws; one goal either way and the Tigers were that close to a spot in the tournament. It goes to show how competitive the league was and how important each goal is.
With a strong nucleus of players back from last year’s squad, the playoffs wouldn’t have been such a far reach for Taunton this season. But with the postseason not in play, the Tigers will shift focus on being a darkhorse in the Kelley-Rex division title hunt. The new modifications will make it tough for all teams when it comes to defending, but it will also benefit something that Taunton has plenty of: speed. The Tigers plan on utilizing their pace on both ends of the pitch, getting behind the defense on one end while using their speed defensively to fend off opposing offenses.
Taunton will be strong up the middle with senior Travis Nunes back in the heart of the pitch and sophomore Riley Rebello back to anchor the defense. Senior Hunter Cabral will give the Tigers flexibility by playing in both the midfield and up front. Head coach Taylor Whitters is looking for sophomores Joseph Renquinha Jr., Aidden Fitting, Quincy Jones-Sylvia, Jonathan Trinh, and Nathan Keenan to all be in the mix this season.
“Despite everything that has occurred in recent months, we have one of the most versatile and technically sound teams that Taunton High School Boys Soccer has seen in a long time,” Whitters said. “This group of young men have the number one factor in the success of any team: chemistry. They have the willingness to play for the team, not for themselves. I feel with their talents, abilities, and desire to work together as a unit, we will be a team to watch in our division this season.”
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Points are at a premium at this point in the season, and both Attleboro and Mansfield earned a hard fought one in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday afternoon.
With both teams still hoping to make a late push for the state tournament, the teams split the points after trading a pair of second half goals.
The point keeps Mansfield’s (2-7-4) playoff hopes alive but they don’t have any breathing room the rest of the way. The Hornets have to win their final five games but have three straight home games to start out, hosting Franklin on Friday.
Attleboro (3-6-2) has a little bit more flexibility, but not that much room for error. The Bombardiers have to pick up 10 points with seven games left on their schedule in order to qualify for the D1 South tournament.
“We’ll take any points here,” said Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We were supposed to get two points today but we’ll take the one and move onto the next game. It’s not an easy league, everyone is a top team.”
The hosts took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes and nearly found the game-winner in the final moments but a shot rang off the post and stayed out.
Mansfield had control for the opening 40 minutes but had nothing to show for it. The Hornets pulled level eight minutes after Attleboro’s opener but couldn’t tack on a second over the final 20 minutes.
“We have to win out to make the tournament, and we’re going to do it, that ball hit the post at the end,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan. “That was a sign right there.
“We were all over them in the first half but this has been the story of the season [not scoring]. We have to find somebody that wants to score goals. The effort is there, we played hard, we just have to convert.”
Despite not finding the back of the net in the first half, Mansfield had plenty of chances. The Hornets put two shots on Attleboro keeper Zackary Brown in the opening three minutes, including a take from junior Colin True from 25-yards out.
Attleboro’s first chance of the half came in the 6th minute on a free kick from just under 30 yards out. Senior Nathan LaPlume curled a shot over the wall, trying to tuck a shot inside the near post but his bid was wide.
The Bombardiers’ other serious chance came off the foot of senior Joshua Smith, who latched onto a loose ball from distance and ripped a low shot, but his chance was right at Mansfield keeper Anthony Salisbury, who handled the chance.
Mansfield’s Cam Eddy got on the end of a corner kick in the 22nd minute but saw his header go over the bar. Sophomore Matt Hyland whipped in a corner four minutes later but Brown did well to intercept and quickly handled the loose ball.
A final chance in the first half came on a delivery from junior Evan Eames, who put a free kick into the mixer but Graham Wells’ bid was handled and the teams entered halftime scoreless.
“We’re a touch team and those long balls kind of kills that momentum and it’s tough to bring the ball down and start it all over again, and they keep coming at you,” Pereira said.
“Mansfield was a little bit more hungry than we were today, they won a lot of the balls. We waited too long to start pushing. The last 15 minutes was mostly us. We let them into the game and they were on us in the first half. Their confidence builds and they start believing they can beat you.”
A long throw from Smith set the Bombardiers up for the opening strike in the 48th minute. His throw was partially cleared but only as far as LaPlume at the top of the area. The senior didn’t get all of his half volley bid and the ball fell right to the feet of sophomore Emilio Ticos, who quickly fired an open look into the back of the net.
Mansfield found the equalizer on its first real chance of the second half. The Hornets went with a set play on a corner kick, having at least a half a dozen players come crashing into the area from outside the area. Dan Rowe’s in-swinger was met by Eddy, who sprinted in, jumped, and smashed a header into the back of the net.
“That was a beautiful goal, it was nice to come back,” Sheridan said. “It was a play we brought back from last year, we just brought it back a couple of days ago. That was [assistant coach] Tommy [Giannouloudis], that was his creation and he suggested bringing it back, and it worked.”
The game was mostly played between the 18-yard boxes for the next 20 minutes before some final fireworks in the final five minutes.
Attleboro’s Joey Soucy connected with Hugo Henriquez on a cheeky chip, and Henriquez chested the ball down before firing a shot that forced Salisbury into a save in the 75th minute.
Mansfield tried to hit on the counter right after but Smith did a nice job of shielding Sagar Koul to allow Brown to come off his line and scoop up the pass.
In the 78th minute, Eddy was the first to a long throw from sophomore Dylan Buchanan but this time his header flashed wide.
Attleboro was inches away from the winner in the final minute. Smith linked up with Soucy, who took a couple of touches towards the end line before firing a low cross. Junior Emilio Amaya met the service with a one-timer to the far post but the shot hit the post and stayed out. The Bombardiers believed there was a hand ball in the area before the clearance but there was no whistle.
“We had it go off the post and it went off the kids’ hand but neither ref saw it, unfortunately,” Pereira said. “The last 15 minutes was us but we needed to start 15 minutes before that. But it’s been tough, it’s been a tough season.”
Attleboro boys soccer is back in action on Friday when it hosts division-leading Oliver Ames. Mansfield will try to keep its tournament hopes alive when it hosts Franklin on the same day.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Behind a new-look defensive unit, the Mansfield boys soccer posted its first shutout of the season, which helped the Hornets break into the win column for the first time in 2019.
After surrendering an uncharacteristic nine goals through the first three games, Hornets’ head coach Steve Sheridan elected to put junior Evan Eames into a sweeper role and senior captain Colin Caridi in front of him as a stopper.
“The biggest difference for me was the defense,” Sheridan said. “We’ve been having trouble with that and we tried a different group today. I took Colin out of the middle and put him in the back. And Evan has played everywhere for me this year and I just haven’t found a spot but I think we did today.”
After losing junior Michael Jeans to an injury in the season opener, Sheridan has shuffled pieces in the back before going with the duo of Eames and Caridi in the heart of the defense. That duo helped limit Sharon to a handful of quality chances.
The lone goal of the contest came just before the midway point of the season second. With a long throw in the attacking third, the Hornets loaded the box with attacking players. Eddy launched a long throw from the right sideline. Senior Peter Oldow got just enough of a touch to redirect the ball onto goal, where it hit off the post and just crossed the goal line to make it 1-0.
The teams took turns controlling the game, with the hosts dictating the pace early on. Mansfield sophomore Dylan Buchanan saw his shot from a tough angle go wide at the near post in the 8th minute, and two minutes later, he flashed a header just wide off service from Tommy Lanzillo.
The Hornets’ best chance of the opening half came off the foot of Caridi. With some space just over midfield, Caridi ripped a shot from distance that hit the crossbar and bounced out.
Sharon took control over the final 10 minutes of the first half and nearly took the lead. With seniors Brian Higgins, Isaiah Stessman, and Michael Baur combining in the midfield, the Eagles were able to move the ball and generate its best offense.
In the 37th minute, Baur connected with Stessman, who held used strong hold up play to allow the Eagles to get upfield. Higgins latched onto a loose ball forcing Salisbury into a save on the bounce.
And just before halftime, Stessman connected with Viktor Schneider, who set up Higgins for a blast on the volley but his shot whistled wide and the refs whistled for halftime.
The Eagles started the second half strong as well, as Schneider ripped a shot just wide a minute in, and Stessman and Higgins combined to force Salisbury into a diving save.
“Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t finish,” said Sharon coach Bryan Kelly. “We got caught up playing kick and run soccer. We dominated the end of the first half by keeping the ball on the ground and we lost that in the second half. We have a couple of guys that are hurt, and on a field like this, when you try to run as fast as you possibly can constantly, it’s tough. We slowed it down in the first half and that’s why we had the advantage.
“In all honesty, their only game is kick and run, long throws, and corners. That’s the only thing that team has to it. You don’t see any build-up play in the middle, you don’t see guys making effective runs in.”
Sharon freshman goalie Matthew Baur made a stop on a Mansfield corner kick in the 48th minute, smothering a redirection. But the Hornets cashed in with a long throw in the 56th minute.
“We draw up the plays, we go over them one day and they have to know them,” Sheridan said of the long throws. “We very rarely work on them in terms of practice. We will go over sometimes at the end of practice to make sure they know them. We have a couple of guys that can throw it long this year so we can move Dylan into the box and have a dangerous striker there.”
Both teams had chances over the final 20 minutes. In the 64th minute, Lanzillo hit a free kick from 20 yards out that looked destined for the top corner but Baur made a leaping one-handed stop to keep the deficit at one.
And in the 75th minute, Sharon nearly found the equalizer. Higgins played a free kick quick to Michael Baur, who took a touch and uncorked a bullet but the shot from distance went just over the crossbar.
Mansfield boys soccer (1-2 Hockomock, 1-3 overall) is back in action on Monday when they visit Franklin. Sharon (0-3-0, 0-3-1) will look to break into the win column with a trip to North Attleboro on Tuesday.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The rivalry on the pitch between Attleboro and Mansfield is a clash of distinct styles. The Hornets press, counter quickly, and dominate teams physically on set pieces, while the Bombardiers play at a different pace, using short passing to move the ball up the field.
At the start of Tuesday night’s match at Alumni Field, it was the Hornets who imposed their will, forcing turnovers, keeping the ball in the attacking half, and putting loads of pressure on the Attleboro goal with a series of long throws and corners. Mansfield took advantage of that quick start to grab the lead, but slowly the Bombardiers worked themselves back into it and started to get hold of the ball.
After tying the game in the 15th minute, the Bombardiers took the lead for good with 10 minutes to go before halftime on an own goal after a Hugo Henriquez corner. Just four minutes after the break, Henriquez found time and space to curl in his second goal of the game before sealing the 4-1 win for the visitors six minutes later with a brilliant assist.
“Possessing the ball was the key,” said Attleboro coach Peter Pereira. “We’ve lost, we’ve won, we’ve seen it and now we’ve got to play some soccer.” He added with a laugh, “I haven’t had four goals in a long time.”
Senior Cam Eddy got the Hornets off to a great start with pressure down the left side of the field. His long throw from the near sideline had to be headed away at the far post and Raffi Marzella forced a save from Zackary Brown with his return header.
Just a couple minutes later, another throw from almost the same spot led to the game’s first goal. Eddy’s throw bounced around in the box and Colin Caridi was in the right spot to prod the ball home from six yards out to make it 1-0. The lead was almost immediately doubled but Brown got the slightest touch to a Tommy Lanzillo corner that skipped off the bar.
Pereira was forced to use a timeout to settle his team down. It seemed to work, as the Bombardiers started to get the ball on the deck and pass through midfield. Off their first corner of the night, freshman Esvin Morales, whose partnership with Henriquez was the key for Attleboro, forced Anthony Salisbury into a save on a low drive.
The tying goal came a minute later. A long ball out of the box was not headed cleanly by the Mansfield defense and Michael Russo showed off his strength and then pace to get by his marker and beat him to the ball in the left channel. Russo was able to find the bottom corner past Salisbury to make it 1-1.
Pereira explained, “That’s why I called a timeout and say, ‘Listen, you guys have to settle down and play to feet.’ It’s how we played Saturday night, 100 miles per hour, and they were really frustrated because they couldn’t get it in, so I was really hoping we could get a point or two today just to get us going.”
Justin Lurssen came off the bench to give Attleboro a lift on the right side and he combined with Jackson Singer to open space for Morales to have another go from the edge of the box. Minutes later, Russo played a one-two with Kevin Raczkowski but his shot flew over the bar. Singer flicked a ball into the path of Joey Soucy, who nutmegged the oncoming defender, but Salisbury was out quickly to force the forward wide and then made one of his seven saves.
It was not all one-way traffic. Mansfield had spells of dominance throughout the first half and continued to create pressure on the Attleboro back line. Caridi and Matt Hyland both had chances from in close off another half-cleared long throw and on the break Aidan Steele forced a near post save from Brown (his fifth of the half) with players open in the middle of the box.
With 10 minutes left before halftime, the game had changed. Henriquez played a driven corner to the front post where it caromed off the knee of a Mansfield defender, skimmed the post and nestled into the top corner to put Attleboro ahead.
“We’re snakebitten right now,” said Mansfield coach Steve Sheridan. “The first half we just couldn’t get anyone to finish. My biggest concern coming in was our defense this season but after the Foxboro game I thought we were all set but one of the guys is injured, so he’s out and that changed everything.”
The Bombardiers carried the momentum over into the second half and Russo created the next chance with good work on the left. The senior cut inside on his right foot and opened space for Henriquez on the edge of the box. He took a touch, looked up, and planted his shot into the corner.
Just six minutes later, the game was effectively over. Again the combination of Morales and Henriquez worked through the midfield. It was Henriquez that picked out the perfect pass, sliding a 30-yard through ball that split the Mansfield defense and allowed Singer to run free on goal. He coolly chipped the ball over the keeper.
“I have some kids who have touch,” said Pereira. “The little guys (Henriquez and Morales) can play to feet. It was a beautiful pass for the score. He knows if Jackson goes that he’s not going to miss too many.”
It was the second game, and second 4-1 loss, in as many days for the Hornets, but Sheridan is confident that they just need a few friendly bounces and some momentum to get things turned around. He said, “That Norton game (on Monday night) was supposed to be at the end of the month and we had to change it last minute. It is what it is. It’s early on and we’ll get these kinks out of the way and we’ll be ready come tournament time.”
Attleboro (1-1) will host Stoughton in its home opener on Friday, while Mansfield (0-3) will look to get its first win when it hosts Sharon.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – In the second half, the Mansfield boys soccer team applied plenty of pressure against Brockton, creating chances off corner kicks and throw ins.
But the Hornets couldn’t break through, and the pressure came just a bit too late as #11 Brockton used a pair of first half goals and added a third one on a counter attack midway through the second half to secure a 3-0 victory over #3 Mansfield.
The Boxers, a team much better than your typical #11 seed, had complete control over the first 40 minutes of the game. Brockton had a lion’s share of the possession and neutralized Mansfield’s attempts to get up field.
“They have a hell of a lot of talent over there,” said Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan.
While the Boxers didn’t create a ton of goal scoring chances, they did capitalize on the opportunities they did have. After controlling the game of the opening 15 minutes, the visitors found the back of the net to go ahead.
After earning a free kick along the right flank, Brockton’s Luis Spinola served the ball to the near post to teammate Leonardo Teixeira. Teixeira had his first touch blocked down but tracked it down and fired in a shot at the near post on a tough angle to make it 1-0.
While Mansfield began to work its way into the game some, earning its first corner and first real attacking throw in, the Boxers struck again in the 33rd minute. Vanilton Xavier and Teixeira combined to get Xavier out wide. After using a cut back to avoid two defenders and centered it back to Teixeira, who headed in a ball he played up to himself.
“They played a little bit more aggressive,” Sheridan said, as compared to the regular season meeting between the clubs. “They were passive the first time, they didn’t play aggressive until the second half. In this game, they came out from the get go with a lot more gusto than the first time. We came out timid but we settled down. After the lightning break, we took it too them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Mansfield’s lone chance of the opening half came off the foot of junior Colin Caridi, who blasted a low shot from 20 yards out but it slid wide at the far post.
“First, we had to keep the ball,” said Brockton head coach Herminio Furtado about defending Mansfield. “As long as you keep the ball, you’re safe. Second, don’t give them throw ins, they love that. We’d rather play from the back and if we lose it, just try to win it back instead of playing it out and giving them throw ins. It was about possessing and being conservative.”
The second half came to an abrupt halt just over minutes in because of a lightning delay. After the teams cleared the field, play resumed 36 minutes later. After the delay, the Hornets ramped up the pressure.
Mansfield had three straight conner kicks in the 38th minute, but only the final one had a chance on goal with Luke Savoie’s header saved on a bounce.
While Teixeira didn’t play a lot of minutes for Brockton in the second half, he did have a chance in the 51st minute but Mansfield junior keeper Cam Bovey made the stop.
While the Hornets pushed numbers forward, the chances on goal didn’t pile up. Instead, the Boxers were able to strike on a quick counter attack. Edson Lopes played Joel Arsenault wide but as soon as Lopes released the ball, he took off sprinting forward and was rewarded for his run as Arsenault slipped a ball in behind and Lopes touched it around the keeper for a 3-0 lead in the 60th minute.
“They only [broke us down] a couple of times.” Sheridan said. “The third goal, we were pushing numbers up and had less guys in the back…2-0, 3-0, 4-0…didn’t matter, we had to go for it.”
Mansfield’s best chance of the game came a minute later as Luke Devine flicked a ball in behind on a header and Savoie fired a hard low shot across the goal but it hit off the far post and rolled across the goal line, somehow staying out and keeping the Hornets scoreless.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Hornets had enough scoring chances to win three playoff games, but still Saturday night’s Div. 1 South first round game against Plymouth North at Alumni Field remained scoreless through the full 80 minutes of regulation and then through another 10 minutes of overtime.
At the start of the second extra period, Mansfield was facing a gusting wind and the looming pressure of a penalty shootout. Up stepped senior Luke Savoie, the team’s leading scorer this fall, to provide the game’s finishing touch. With one kick, Mansfield avoided the coin flip of penalties, avoided an upset by the 14th-seeded Eagles, and avoided the end of the Hornets’ season.
“He’s been dying for that moment right there,” Mansfield coach Steve Sheridan said of Savoie’s winner. “It’s the one moment he’s been waiting for all year and he got it. I hope it’s not his last moment.”
Savoie beat his man to a ball over the top, dragged the ball through a challenge and came out the other side free on goal, the first time either defense had allowed someone to get a clean chance from the run of play. Savoie showed considerable composure, considering the circumstances, to coolly round the keeper and then make no mistake into an empty net.
His golden goal, two minutes into the second overtime, lifted Mansfield to a 1-0 win and a spot in the South quarterfinal.
There was little indication from the first half that the night would be filled with drama. The Hornets dominated the opening 40 minutes, holding the Eagles to one shot attempt (not on target), while creating a host of scoring opportunities with their trademark set pieces.
Plymouth North had an early shout for a penalty when Brady Sorensen went down under the challenge of Derek Meuth, but the officials waved for play to continue. Just five minutes later, Mansfield was sparked into life by a rasping half-volley from defender Ethan Brill-Cass that was just tipped over by Eagles goalie Cole Gustin.
A Savoie corner kick was headed past the post by Owen Mullahy at the midway point of the half and four minutes later Meuth hit a deep cross that picked out Ethan Scholes but the sophomore’s header was comfortably saved.
In the 26th minute, a short corner freed Colin Caridi on the right side of the box and he forced Gustin into a save at the near post from a tight angle. On the ensuing corner, Luke Devine found the head of Mullahy but again the finish was narrowly wide.
The chances kept coming for the Hornets. Savoie played in a corner to Devine at the back post but the slightest deflection by a Plymouth North defender was enough to take it away from the Mansfield midfielder before he could nod it into an open net. Minutes later, Mullahy got free on the right and played a low cross into Savoie, who had made a run across his marker, but the finish was over the bar.
“We had chances all game,” Sheridan said. “I was getting frustrated that we couldn’t finish. They played the way I knew they were going to play and I knew we’d have opportunities but we just couldn’t cash in on them. It was just one of those nights.”
Savoie forced Gustin into a save just minutes after the restart and then had a second chance in the box blocked. While Mansfield continued to press for the opening goal, especially using long throws from Dylan Buchanan, it was the Eagles that had the wind at their backs in the second half and they started to make it a much more even contest.
Despite the set piece prowess of the hosts, the visitors nearly used a dead ball play to take the lead. Defender Jack Post headed a corner over the bar and then minutes later hit a bullet free kick from 20 yards that was right at Mansfield keeper Anthony Salisbury.
The best chance of the second half for the Hornets came in the 52nd minute when Devine got on the end of a knocked down header just inside the box. His shot was smartly saved at full stretch by Gustin (seven saves) to keep the game scoreless.
“I told [Sam] Nugent that he was going to be playing baseball, centerfield, back there because I knew how they were going to attack us,” Sheridan said about the pressure Plymouth North was able to put on in the second half. “He saved our butt a few times back there. Our defense played strong. I can’t say enough about them.”
In overtime, the Hornets got the wind at their backs agains and immediately went back to creating scoring chances. Mullahy headed the ball down to Savoie, but his finish went high over the bar and in the 88th minute Caridi and Buchanan got into each other’s way with the ball loose on the edge of the six-yard-box.
The frustration was mounting for the hosts as the second overtime began, but Savoie soon allowed everyone at Alumni Field to breathe a sigh of relief.
Sheridan admitted that at this time of the year a win is a win. “That’s all it is,” he said, “just survive and advance in this thing.”
Mansfield (13-2-5) will host the winner of Brockton and New Bedford in the South quarterfinal on Monday.
2017 Record: 4-9-5 2017 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Peter Pereira
Attleboro is aiming to use a strong nucleus of returning players to get back into the state tournament after a couple of years of being on the outside looking in.
“We are excited about the team and looking forward to doing well in the Hockomock, which is not an easy task since there is a lot of talent and good teams in the league,” said Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira.
The Bombardiers bring back a seasoned group of defenders that will hopefully give them stability in the back. Colin Levis brings the most varsity experience to the group and will be joined by Connor Dunn, Josh Smith, and Nathan LaPlume. Senior transfer Aaron Flynn and classmates Jared Cooper and Alex Naughton give the Bombardiers a solid group of veterans in the back. Seniors Andre Menard and Tyler Biller are candidates for the starting goalie position.
Pereira has a lot of options to work with in the midfield, including senior Aidan Lancaster. Lancaster has experience playing defense as well so can provide an extra layer of defense when needed. Another familiar face back in midfield will be Michael Russo, who showed flashes of great skill during his sophomore season. Russo and Lancaster will be joined by Brady Holander, Hugo Henriquez, Kevin Raczkowski and Patrick Raczkowski.
There will be another familiar face up front as Will Halben returns as the feature striker. Halben has been Attleboro’s leading scorer the past two seasons and will be a major factor up front again this year. Eli Araujo, Joey Soucy, Justin Lurssen, and Guilherme Machado are expected to provide help up top as well.
2017 Record: 5-9-4 2017 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Fran Bositis
After going through some growing pains throughout the 2017 season, the Panthers are looking to make it back to the state tournament.
It all starts with the Panthers’ three senior captains, who will be relied upon to help Franklin compete in a very talented Kelley-Rex division.
Nitin Chaudhury, Nick Barry, and Sam Stowell are all veteran players and will be joined by 10 other returners from last year’s team that got better as the season went on. The Panthers must replace talented goalie Freddie Beckmann but head coach Fran Bositis is expecting good things from junior Jack Rudolph because of his excellent athletic ability.
Chaudhury will once again be the engine of the team from the midfield position while Stowell is back for his third year in the heart of the Panthers’ defense. Jacob Cummings will be another weapon for Franklin in the midfield while senior Tim Duval and junior Donny Tappin return up top.
“As always we are looking forward to competing in the very competitive Hockomock League,” Bositis said.
2017 Record: 11-8-2 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Nick Gale
The Warriors have had back-to-back successful seasons and are looking to make it three straight, despite losing six experienced starters to graduation.
While King Philip certainly has some shoes to fill, head coach Nick Gale has a lot of options to work with and is aiming to make another appearance in the state tournament.
Senior captains Zac White, Tony Bozza, and John Cullen have all seen plenty of varsity minutes over the past couple of seasons and are ready to lead the 2018 Warriors. White and Cullen will be major factors in the midfield while Bozza gives the Warriors some pace up top. White and Cullen will be joined in the midfield by a trio of sophomores – Evan McEvoy, Camron Lawrence, and Ajae Olsen – all of whom saw some minutes as freshmen a year ago.
KP’s defense has been among the best in the league over the past two seasons but will need some new faces to step up to continue that trend this year. The Warriors do have some experience with senior Andrew Thompson and juniors Brian McCarthy and Wesley Orzell all expected to step up in the back for KP.
“We’re a much smaller team this year, but we haven’t lost our willingness to fight while defending,” Gale said. “Our focus will be on improving team defending and our ability to press intelligently. We have defenders returning with varsity experience and they’re committed to working together to ensure we’re organized and defending as a team.”
2017 Record: 10-3-6 2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Steve Sheridan
Although Mansfield graduated over a dozen seniors, and the majority of its starting lineup, the Hornets have a strong presence in the middle of the pitch and are looking to build off that to compete for the Kelley-Rex title.
The Hornets bring back EMass All Star Sam Nugent at center back and he’ll be joined by Ethan Brill-Cass, who had a bright sophomore season but missed all of last year due to injury. Mansfield’s defense will feature all seniors as Derek Meuth and Matt O’Donnell fill out the back four for the Hornets. Tony Salisbury and Cam Bovey are competing for the starting spot in goal.
Mansfield also has seniors Luke Savoie and Luke Devine back in the center of the pitch to patrol the midfield. Both Savoie and Devine were key pieces for last year’s Hornets team, which came within one point from earning a share of the league title with OA. One spot that Mansfield is looking for new faces is up top, but options include Colin Caridi, Owen Mullahy, and Raffi Marzella.
“Having to fill the loss of 14 seniors from last season is going to be challenging,” said MHS head coach Steve Sheridan. “We have a variety of guys on offense that I’ll be expecting big things from, time will tell who will step up.”
2017 Record: 15-3-4 (Kelley-Rex Champions) 2017 Finish: Reached D2 State Final Coach: John Barata
It’s not often a team graduates its entire starting lineup and then some, but that’s the situation defending Kelley-Rex champions Oliver Ames finds itself in.
The Tigers lost a whopping 20 seniors to graduation and return just four players from last year’s roster so it there will be a completely new look for OA in 2018. But that doesn’t mean the standards will be any lower for the Tigers, who have made three state final appearances in the last four years.
“We have a completely new team and we are looking forward to working hard,” said OA head coach John Barata. “Our primary objective is to get better every day and try to compete in a very difficult and talented Hockomock League.”
OA’s defense was among the best in the entire state last season, allowing just 15 goals in 22 games played. Barata will be looking for Aaron MacDonald, Andrew Leite, Harry Ahearn, Matthew Nosalek, and Jon Freeman to step up and fill in the spots along the back line. Senior Jacob Lerman and sophomore Drew Nickla are battling for the starting spot in goal.
On the offensive side of the ball, Barata is looking for contributions from Colin Milliken, Anthony DaCosta, Matt Nikiciuk, Sean Flaherty, Niko Byron, Kevin Louhis and Haendal Louhis to carry to load.
2017 Record: 3-14-2 2017 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Taylor Whitters
A solid nucleus returning from last season and more cohesiveness are two of the top reasons for optimism for the Taunton High boys soccer team.
The Tigers have players back all over the field and are hoping that the combination of experience and some fresh faces leads to a competitive season in a very competitive division. Junior Nolan Melo made a splash last season when he took over as starting keeper and looks to be one of the top players at that position in the league.
Senior Evan Melo will be tasked with anchoring the defense from his center back position while Taunton will look for some new faces to step alongside him. Colby Fernandes returns to his defensive midfield spot and Liam Crowley is back as the attacking midfielder in the middle to give the Tigers a nice steady presence up the center of the pitch.
Leading scorer Brett Beaulieu (nine goals, four assists) is back as the featured striker while Alec Nunes can either pair with Beaulieu up top or drop into the midfield when needed. Kyle Aubin is another returning midfield option for the Tigers.
“We have seven returning starters this season and a team with solid technical ability as well as great team chemistry and athleticism,” said Taunton head coach Taylor Whitters.