Oliver Ames Captures First Ever State Championship

Oliver Ames captains Max Bamford, Chris Romero, Keegan Nutt and head coach John Barata with the D2 State Championship. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
Oliver Ames captains Max Bamford, Chris Romero, Keegan Nutt and head coach John Barata with the D2 State Championship. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Click here to purchase photos from OA’s celebration.
By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

LYNN, Mass. – When last year’s Div. 2 state title game ended, Oliver Ames players grabbed the runner-up trophy and raised it high in celebration of reaching the program’s first ever championship game.
When OA took the pitch on Saturday morning at Manning Field for this year’s state title game against Masconomet, the Tigers were not going to be happy settling for second place again.
The experience of last season paid dividends. OA bounced back from an early Masco goal to defeat the Chieftains 3-1 on three well-executed set pieces and clinched the program’s first state championship.
“Since we came here once, we knew how to play this game,” said OA coach John Barata. “It’s different; it’s a one-game season against a top team from the North.
“It’s a great feeling to win because it would’ve been horrible to come back-to-back years and lose again. The guys worked hard and they deserved it. We earned that win.”
Masco jumped into the lead in the 12th minute. A long throw from Alex Spaulding reached Josh Polakiewicz on the corner of the six-yard box and he flicked a header up over OA keeper Jack Carroll.
OA had lost the momentum after a decent start, but the Tigers utilized the experience of two straight runs to the South title and stayed in the game.
Senior Chris Romero equalized in the 19th minute when the Tigers were awarded a free kick just outside the box. It may have been a harsh call, but Romero did not mind as he curled his 20-yard shot past the despairing dive of Steven Heitzelman.
“They had all the momentum,” said Romero, “and we really needed the quick goal to get the momentum back, so I think it helped us pushing forward.”
Just five minutes later OA took the lead. Romero played an in-swinging corner kick that Heitzelman failed to hold. The ball dropped to the foot of sophomore Nathaniel Cardoza, who was in the right place at the right time to tap it in.
Cardoza also had the winning goal in overtime to win the South title for the Tigers. Barata said of the midfielder, “He is a very good player, diligent player. He’s a DI school’s dream and he’s only a sophomore. I’m very lucky to have him.”
Masco coach Jared Scarpaci noted, “The first [set piece], you don’t get a better free kick than that and you just tip your hat. The second one, I think we could have done a little bit better on that and that’s really when the momentum shifted.”
The Chieftains, who won the title in 2013 and have reached the state title game in three of the past four seasons (the last two in Div. 2), had their chances to equalize before the break. Shane Collins could not take advantage off of a poor clearance by Carroll to score into an empty net and then he set up Bryan Gilbert, who scuffed a shot while all alone in the box.
“They missed a couple of sitters that could have changed the game,” said Barata. “That’s the way soccer goes; I’ll take it.”
Carroll also came through with a big save to deny Blaise Romanowski in the final five minutes of the half, tipping over the Masco striker’s close-range effort off a free kick.
Seven minutes after the break, Romero showed his defensive prowess by heading out a Andrew Musiak corner underneath his own crossbar.
Barata explained, “You can see why he’s an all-state player. He starts on the left wing, scores a beautiful goal, he plays forward, and then we move him to the back and he was excellent at the back.”
In the 57th minute, OA sealed the title with another set piece that was straight off the training ground. Instead of playing an angled free kick into the box, Romero played the ball straight into the path of Matt Alvarado and the sophomore sent an inch-perfect cross into the box to a wide open Thomas McCormick, who nodded home the Tigers’ third.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Romero. “Alvarado down the line and crosses it for Thomas to head it in…perfect play.”
Barata credited the week of between games for allowing his team to work on set pieces and, as he explained, it “paid off” of Saturday.
“It worked like a charm today,” he said about the routine for the third goal. “We’ve done that a number of times and it’s gone over the bar, off the bar, off a defender, but today it was destined.”
Romero and the rest of his teammates charged towards the traveling OA fans at the final whistle, celebrating the first state title with friends and family. The Tigers reached their first sectional title in 2013, won the South for the first time last year, and now have won the state championship.
It has been a long and successful career for the OA captain and, when asked how it felt to get to this level, Romero responded succinctly, “It’s pretty awesome. It’s awesome to be a state champ.”
Click here to purchase photos from OA’s celebration. 
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Strong Start Leads Tigers To Big Win Over Stoughton

Stoughton's Jordan Asnes and Oliver Ames' Matt Campbell battle for possession on Friday. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Stoughton’s Jordan Asnes and Oliver Ames’ Matt Campbell battle for possession on Friday. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Coming off a highly anticipated game against division rival Foxboro just some 18 hours before kickoff on Friday afternoon, Oliver Ames head coach John Barata was a bit concerned there might be a bit of a hangover.
The Tigers allowed a goal in the final five minutes against the Warriors on Thursday night but were back out on the pitch on Friday afternoon against a Stoughton side that had won four straight games.
But there was no lull as the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead at halftime and added one goal in the second half to pick up their 11th win, a 4-0 win over the neighboring Black Knights.
“We needed to do that,” Barata said of converting their early chances. “We didn’t want to fall into a lull after such a big emotional game and a letdown with a late goal last night and have [Stoughton] come jump all over us with us being tired. But we didn’t have that happen, we survived. It was good to get the goals, especially the first goal 10 minutes in and we continued to press. They maybe had one shot on goal in the first half. We were able to control the game and I thought we played one of our better games overall.”
The Tigers were in control for the majority of the first 10 minutes but it was Stoughton that had the first chance. After a long throw pinballed around the area, it bounced out to Stoughton junior Loubensky Lucas, who hit the ball on a volley but his bid sailed high.
Just a minute later, Oliver Ames had its first scoring chance and they were able to convert. A free kick from just over midfield was sent into the area by sophomore Cam Vella. The ball deflected off of the upper body of junior Thomas McCormick and fell to senior captain Keegan Nutt, who buried his chance from close range.
It took less than five minutes for the Tigers to double their lead. A long throw in from senior Max Bamford into the area was met by a charging Thomas McCormick at the front post. McCormick flicked it perfectly, sending the ball into the net at the far post.
Oliver Ames nearly made it a three goal lead in the 25th minute when Nutt’s ball through the defense sent sophomore Tylor Jones in on goal but Stoughton goalie Kyle Silverman came off his line and forced Jones’ bid wide at the post.
But just a minute later, the Tigers did create a three goal lead. In a rush forward, sophomore Nathaniel Cardoza played a pass wide to senior captain Chris Romero. Romero’s first touch was nearly perfect, pushing himself ahead of the defender and in on goal. Romero then fired a shot from a tough angle and was able to find the back of the net.
“This first half performance today killed us,” Stoughton head coach Aaron Salter said. “I thought for the majority of the second half we were a bit more of a fret, we didn’t get going in the first half. If you give a team as good as Oliver Ames the opportunity they are going to punish you. The second half was much better.”
There weren’t too many chances in the second half for either side and the score remained at 3-0 for over a half hour of play in the second frame.
One change that helped Stoughton defensively was inserting junior Matt Gallagher into the defensive back line for the Black Knights. Gallagher, a call up from JV, earned high praise from Salter.
“Matt Gallagher, when I put him at center back and he made a massive difference,” Salter said. “He did the easy stuff, he went and won the first ball and then give it. He did that superbly and really shored us up in the back.”
It wasn’t until a corner in the 73rd minute that the Black Knights elected to push nearly everyone up and that created space for Oliver Ames’ final goal. The corner was cleared and sophomore Matt Alvarado launched a ball up to midfield. Vella collected and was able to get around his defender and go in on goal and calmly slid his shot into the back of the net.
With the three goal lead, Barata was able to get some starters some rest after logging heavy minutes on Thursday night.
“It was very nice to get some guys a break and a rest,” Barata said. “But it was also good to see the quality of play didn’t really drop. Now we know if we are in this situation again with a back to back we know we can do it.”
With four games left, Oliver Ames (11-0-1, 11-0-1) sits three points clear in first place in the Davenport Division. They’ll look to continue their push for the league title on Tuesday with a trip to Canton, a team that also tied Foxboro this week. Stoughton (6-5-2, 6-4-2) will continue its push for a playoff berth on Monday in a non-league game against Norwood.

Romero’s Disputed Goal the Winner for OA at Sharon

Chris Romero
OA senior Chris Romero scored the lone goal at Sharon as the Tigers improved to 6-0 on the season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

SHARON, Mass. – As Shalin Patel chased the ball over the top in the 38th minute, he had position on Oliver Ames forward Chris Romero and it seemed as though the chance was gone for the Tigers.

Then the Sharon right back went to ground, seemingly after having his heel clipped. But the whistle never blew and Romero never hesitated on his path to the ball before coolly finishing it under the bar.

The Eagles bench exploded, arguing that it  was a clear foul on the defender. The referees came together for a quick conversation at midfield but there was no changing the call and the goal stood.

It turned out to be enough for the Tigers for a 1-0 road victory. OA’s record improved to 6-0 and the Tigers have allowed only one goal all season, but in the team talk after the final whistle OA coach John Barata let his team know that there was plenty of room for improvement.

“It wasn’t our best game, by any means, but at least we were able to get a result,” he explained. “We’ve got a lot to build on but we’re just focused on the present.”

Sharon coach Bryan Kelly was pleased with his team’s performance, if not what turned out to be the decisive moment. He said, “They had the one chance and that’s all they needed. We played really well and I thought we controlled the tempo in both halves.”

Sharon started the game with most of the possession on its familiar grass field. The Tigers were backing off to protect the box and then countered quickly and created a number of good chances in the opening 40 minutes, while the Eagles did not put a shot on target in the first half.

The first chance fell to Romero, who was left unmarked in the box and was picked out with a cross by Thomas McCormick but headed wide. McCormick had the next chance off a pass by Keegan Nutt but his shot sailed over the bar.

Vella had another chance int he 21st minute. His shot from the edge of the box was spilled by Filipkowski but the Sharon keeper was quick to block the rebound chance by Tylor Jones. Three minutes later, he was off his line quickly again to make a sliding save on Cam Vella.

“Andrew is just solid,” said Kelly, while also praising his back four, including three-year starter Samuel Weldig. “My defense in front of him is really strong, but Andrew has been a rock back there.”

In the 38th minute, the game changed with the Tigers taking the lead. Barata said, “Yes, we had plenty of chances. We didn’t give up a lot of chances but in soccer it’s the one who finishes that wins and we got one…finally.”

The halftime team talk was crucial for the Eagles and seemed to work as Sharon came out of the break with renewed energy. Midfielders Dan Bender, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and James Dunlea got the ball into the channels quicker to give Sonny Somdah the chance to run at the OA defense.

Three minutes into the second half, Somdah created Sharon’s first real scoring chance when he raced to the byline and cut it back to Lucas Allaria, but his shot from six yards went wide.

“He’s a player to watch as we come down the end of the season,” said Kelly. “He hurt his ankle early this season but he’s starting to create chances.”

OA managed a pair of chances to double its lead on the counter. Romero quickly played the ball forward to Nutt who found Matt Campbell, but his shot flew over the bar. Romero then took advantage of a misplayed back pass to create space for his left foot but again the shot was narrowly off frame.

In the 68th minute, Sharon had its best chance of the game. Somdah was again the player that the opportunity fell to when he ran onto a through ball but OA keeper Jack Carroll came off his line to smother the chance.

“That’s the fun thing about a goalkeeper,” said Barata. “You can have nothing for 60 minutes but when you’re called upon that one moment are you going to make the save? And he made the save.”

Kelly remarked, “When we pass it we can spin people around. I have no complaints about the way we played. But it’s all about putting the ball in the net and that was shown again today.”

Two minutes after Carroll’s save, Filipkowski came up with another huge stop when he was down low to his left to stop a shot from Nutt with 10 minutes remaining.

It was a sixth straight win for the Tigers to start the season, but Barata admitted that his team had to grind out Thursday’s result.

He said, “It’s always wonderful to see these teams go at it and I always tell people that this is good tournament prep. The Hock may not win all the championships but we are ready to go come tournament time because of games like this.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.