Newburyport opens with a 61-49 win over Rockport

Max Gagnon was part of a very tight Newburyport defense

Casey McLaren at the front of the Newburyport defense

(Newburyport MA) The combination of two sizable runs of points and an effective full-court defense keyed Newburyport’s 61-49 win over Rockport on Tuesday night.

The Vikings (0-2) had won four of their last five previous meetings with the Clippers (1-0).

“Our bigs struggled to get going tonight,” explained Rockport coach Phil Whitley afterwards.

Some of that struggle was due to the never-ending in-your-face defense by the home team.

“The defense was good,” said NHS coach Dave Clay, “but there still are some things we need to clean up.”

Tight defense

Rockport had twenty-two turnovers (by my count).  That’s a lot of empty possessions in a 32-minute game.

“We want the defense to be a staple of the team,” said Coach Clay.

Having 6’5” Casey McLaren at the point on the full-court defense, forced inbounds passes to the sides where the Clippers could double-team.

The Vikings broke open a close game (14-13) with a run of six points in the second quarter.  A rebound basket by Jake Knowlton and two free throws apiece by Gavyn Hillier and Ezra Mendoza had RHS up, 20-13, with 3:49 left in the second quarter.

Ryan Archie (with the ball) was part of the run that gave the Clippers separation

Then junior Ryan Archie heated up.

A rebound basket by Jacob Robertson was followed by eight straight Ryan points (two three’s and two free throws).

Both of Ryan’s 3-pointers were set up by George Coryell.

Newburyport led by a point (23-22) at the half.

Rockport opened the second half with three points and then the Clippers ran thirteen points over the next 3+ minutes.

That streak sent the home team up by ten points (35-25) and Rockport didn’t have the shooting to get closer than six points (51-45) the rest of the way.

Jacob Robertson and Noah Rawson

The beauty of Newburyport’s run of thirteen points was that the scoring was done by four different players (Ryan Archie, Parker McLaren, Casey McLaren, Charlie Cahalane).

“When we moved the ball by passing instead of dribbling, we did better against their zone,” said Coach Clay.

Casey McLaren (19), Ryan Archie (14), Jacob Robertson (13), and Parker McLaren (10) were the top Newburyport scorers.

Rockport was paced by Jake Knowlton (17) and Gavyn Hillier (10).

The NHS defense was a factor in the outcome, but foul trouble was certainly a problem for Rockport as well.

Starters Jake Knowlton and Ezra Mendoza both had three fouls in the first half despite sitting out some minutes in that half.

Ezra Mendoza was gone in the third quarter

Ezra fouled out of the game in the third quarter and Jake had his 4th before that same quarter was over.

Minus a primary ball-handler and their top scorer not only limited the Vikings offense but it added to their troubles handling pressure.

Jake Knowlton had thirty points in Rockport’s 83-77 loss to Bishop Fenwick in their opener.

I was impressed, as usual, with senior Casey McLaren.  On a night when the three’s weren’t falling, he moved in for mid-range shots and drives.  His defense within the press was important for NHS.

Parker McLaren above the Rockport defense

Coach Clay: “Parker (McLaren) played well.  We need to keep him out of foul trouble.  I love it when he attacks the basket. He’s such a big guy.  Think of LeBron James in high school.  I wouldn’t want to get in his way!”

Coach Whitley: “Their defense gave us trouble and our foul trouble didn’t help.  I think we got tired in the second half.”

Serious man-to-man defense was played by George Coryell and Max Gagnon.

Good crowd in the house for the Clippers home opener.

Newburyport starts the season with six straight home games all in December.

Part of that good crowd was made up of other CAL schools scouting the two future opponents.

Newburyport box

Rockport box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Jake Knowlton in for two

Jake Knowlton fends off Parker McLaren

Jake Knowlton block a shot

Jake Knowlton at the line

Austin Matus (13) eyes the hoop

Casey McLaren layup

Gavyn Hillier (35)

George Coryell in the air with Ezra Mendoza



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St. Bernard’s takes out Pope John XXIII 46-35 for the Division 8 title

Micah Stinson (52) signals a Super Bowl win for St. Bernard’s

The Bernardians celebrate a touchdown

(Foxboro MA) It seemed as if the teams spent more time in the end zones celebrating than they did on the rest of the field!

St. Bernard’s defeated Pope John XXIII, 46-35, in an offensive show that would require a book to describe all the details.

The game to decide the Division 8 title started at 9AM at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

Beautiful weather (sunny/40’s) and the performances of the Bernardians (12-1) and the Tigers (12-1) made this a game to remember.

St. Bernard’s lost in the D6 Super Bowl in 2015 to Mashpee.  They had a Super Bowl win in 1997 when current head coach Tom Bingham was a line coach for the team.

Points were scored by both teams in every quarter.

In the final quarter thirty-seven points were scored, which set a new state championship/Super Bowl record (thirty points) previously done in 1982.

Greg Smith (4) of Pope John’s dives into the end zone

Even more remarkable was that those 37 points in the final period all came in just a 4 ½ minute stretch of that ten-minute final period.

“I certainly didn’t expect a shootout,” said Pope John coach Paul Sobolewski in a phone interview today.  “Both teams were good defensively.  We had only given up eighty-two points all year.”

The Bernardians took the lead, 8-6, late in the first quarter (Xavier Marty 9-yard run) and pushed it to 16-6 on QB Domenic Cuevas’ two-yard run in the second quarter.

Then the scoring fun began.

John Smith-Howell ( three touchdowns ) loose on the sidelines

Quarterback Domenic Cuevas follows blockers Ben Jacoby (57) and Xavier Marty (5)

The rest of the way, beginning with Pope John, one team would score a touchdown and the other team would respond with one of their own.

Once that pattern kicked in you had to think that the team with the last possession would win the title.

You also looked for one of the teams to not allow the other to answer with a touchdown.

But there were no big stops and for those at Gillette hoping to see yards covered and points produced the game was a delight.  The teams combined for seventeen plays that covered more than ten yards.

Battle in the air between Dom Valera (4) and Jose Davila (2)

Pope John hurt St. Bernard’s via the pass.  “Our offense is a run/pass option,” explained Coach Sobolewski.  “We wait to see how the defense is aligned before we call a play.  They were daring us to pass with eight players at times in the box.  That led to some one-on-one matchups and our offensive coordinator made some good calls against it.”

The Tigers first three touchdowns (John Smith-Howell, Roshad John, Jesus Rivera) were on passes by quarterback Anthony Mejia.

STB quarterback Domenic Cuevas had just one touchdown pass (Walter Morales) and it opened the scoring in the second half.

The Bernardians did most of their damage on the ground.  They had great success running misdirection plays.  QB Domenic Cuevas would start one way, or a back would start one way, but the actual ball carrier would be going the opposite way (usually left).  There was good blocking, but it was the scheme of offense that put the STB backs into good spaces frequently.

More good blocking for Walter Morales (three touchdowns)

“They did their homework on us for sure,” explained the PJ coach.  “We were conscious of (Walter) Morales on the buck sweep play that he has been so dominating running all year. That made their traps and counters hard to defend.  We were inexperienced along the defensive line.  You have to be fundamentally sound or those counters will hurt you.”

So both teams had weapons and they weren’t shy about using them.

I thought that Pope John was done for early in the last quarter when quarterback Anthony Mejia went down (and out of the game) in the first minute and never returned.

Roshad John (5) carries

The Tigers were prepared.  “Anthony was injured in the Eastern Mass finals,” explained Coach Sobolewski.  “It was touch-and-go as to whether he would even play in the Super Bowl.  I tip my cap to him for giving it a go.  We hadn’t used the Wildcat in a game, but we practiced it during the week.  It enabled us to get the ball directly into the hands of our best player (John Smith-Howell).”

That turned out to be a wise decision.

Even though everyone paying attention knew that John Smith-Howell would be taking the direct snap and trying to run to daylight, he did both anyhow.  During the season the speedy sophomore had fifteen touchdowns and gained 1216 yards.  He was fast and elusive and scored twice to keep the pressure on St. Bernard’s.

Brian Baez (65) holds off a defender

JSH’s first touchdown out of the Wildcat cut the Tiger’s deficit to, 32-28, with six minutes left.  But St. Bernard’s put long runs together and moved ahead by ten (38-28) with 5:23 remaining.

Credit Pope John.  Back they came with John Smith-Howell’s 2nd touchdown (2-yard run) of the last quarter and now it was, 38-35, with 2:23 to go for the title.

“Now it came down to should we kick it away,” recalled Coach Sobolewski.  “I thought that no matter what we do we’re having a tough time stopping them.  Let’s try an onsides kick.  If we don’t get it, we still have three timeouts. When the kick didn’t work we needed a big stop in the biggest moment of the game.  We just didn’t get it done.”

Domenic Cuevas (6) tries to avoid Marcus Parrara (55)

Bernardians quarterback Domenic Cuevas headed right and handed to Walter Morales going left.  Thirty-five yards later STB had a 46-35 lead with 1:57 remaining.

St. Bernard’s was able to put an end to the scoring see-saw with some solid defense including a sack by Ben Shaw and the win was secured.

Coach Sobolewski: “We didn’t want to lose but the experience should make us a better program.  We can no longer be happy just to get here.  We return 28 of 32 kids.”

Coach Sobolewski also talked about scheduling: “We currently have three open weeks next season and we need to get some really good schools on our non-league schedule.  We need to stop worrying about being undefeated and get more battle tested.  St. Bernard’s played tougher schools such as Fitchburg and Nipmuc and that probably gave them an advantage against us.”

John Smith-Howell tries to turn the corner

Coach Sobolewski credited the blocking of Brian Baez, Stephen Gaskill, Jose Davila, and Ajan Nelson as keys to the team’s long gains.

“After the game I thanked our seniors for putting Pope John back on the map,” said Coach Sobolewski.  “We restarted football last year and they were part of the foundation.”

The Super Bowl is not only a great experience for teams and their fans but also for those of us who cover these events.

Special thanks to Coach Paul Sobolewski for contacting me today to give me his take on the game.  I had another commitment right after the late-ending game and couldn’t interview anyone.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Pope John QB Anthony Mejia down with a 4th quarter injury

Ball on the ground

Domenic Cuevas (6) chased by Ajan Nelson (51)

Domenic Valera (4) into a huge opening

Erik Flores (24) tries an onsides kick

John Smith-Howell (1) looks inside for tacklers

Malachi Reeves (63) drills quarterback Domenic Cuevas (6) as he passes

Matthew Smith (51) signals a St. Bernard’s touchdown as Ajan Nelson (51) pursues

Max Bigelow makes a leaping catch

Good blocking by St Bernard’s

QB Domenic Cuevas looks for a block from Micah Stinson (52) on Greg Smith (4)

Tyler Thibodeau (12) about to make a fumble recovery

Tyler Thibodeau (12) corners John Smith-Howell

Walter Morales (3) closed out Pope John with this 35-yard TD late in the final quarter

Sam Poindexter (19) about to meet running back Max Bigelow

Television interference






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Newtown avoids upset defeating Masuk 21-14

Newtown wins the South-West Conference

Dan Mason ( touchdown, 126 yards)

(Newtown CT) Everything favored a big Newtown win.

The respective records; Newtown 9-0, Masuk 5-4.

Experience; Masuk had two returning starters.

But it turned out to be a surprisingly close game won by Newtown, 21-14, on a chilly Wednesday night at Blue-and-Gold Stadium.

Nolan McCarter (9) and Dan Verastro (22) bring down Dan Mason

Newtown built up a two-score lead late in the third quarter but were seriously threatened in the final quarter.

MHS narrowed the margin to one score with ten minutes left and nearly tied the game five minutes later.

But on this uncomfortably cold evening the home team had the defensive goods to withstand the challenge.

With the victory, the Hawks (10-0) finish an undefeated regular season and are heading for the playoffs.  However, much of the chatter afterwards was about Masuk’s play in the losing effort.

“They (Masuk) came to play,” explained Newtown captain Matt Dubois afterwards.  “They played with heart.”

QB Thomas Juliano (15) in the pocket

The Panthers (5-5) pulled off numerous long gainers and found ways to hold Newtown to only three touchdowns.

That “only” makes a little more sense when you realize that Newtown came into the game averaging forty-five points per outing.

Asked how his team pulled this off defensively, Masuk coach Joe Lato said simply, “Our kids are tough.  They did what Monroe kids do.”

I asked a Masuk coach pre-game if he thought that the team could make a game of it.  His reply?  “We’ll find out in a hurry.”

A big run by Dan Mason (126 yards, 1 touchdown) on Newtown’s opening possession put the Hawks deep into Masuk territory.

NHS ended up with a short yardage 4th down on the M21.  Quarterback sneak made sense and that was the play.  Newtown QB Luke Mellilo hit the middle and looked wrapped up, but suddenly broke loose and off to the end zone he went.  Devin O’Connell kicked the extra point.  Newtown 7 Masuk 0) – 8:52.

Luke Mellilo (10) scores the first Newtown TD

I must admit that, based on the records, I thought that this was the beginning of a long night for the visitors.  Consider me wrong on that one!

My inclinations didn’t change right away.

On Masuk’s first possession, they fumbled (Kevin Luke recovered for Masuk), and struggled to move the ball.

But suddenly that changed on a harmless side-pitch to Dan Verastro on the right.  There looked to be plenty of Newtown defense in the area but that didn’t matter as Dan cut to the middle and then to the outside.  Off he went for a 44-yard touchdown.  Nolan McCarter kicked the extra point.  Newtown 7, Masuk 7 (6:34).

Dan Verastro (22) finishes TD run

I think that that touchdown alerted Masuk that they could play with Newtown and told the Hawks that the Panthers wouldn’t be going easily into the frigid night.

And that was the way it went.

Newtown regained the lead in the second quarter.  Senior Dan Mason, who mainly pounds away in the middle, swept left and got a step on everyone.  Dan Verastro was able to run Dan down at the Masuk two.  Dan Mason, who had two TDs last Thanksgiving, covered the final two yards up the middle.  Newtown 14, Masuk 7 (5:30).

Dan Mason (7) in the middle in from two yards

The Hawks tried two field goals during the remainder of the half.  The second Devin O’Connell attempt, with one second left, led to one of the most exciting plays of this game.  The attempt was blocked, and the kick floated to Masuk’s Ian Jackson at the one-yard line.  Ian started right and then changed his mind and went left.  I was in the end zone behind the runback and Ian had at least five blockers in front of him as he headed up the field.  Fortunately for Newtown, one of their players caught Ian at midfield to end the half.

In the third quarter, a 4th down gamble by Masuk failed but Newtown couldn’t capitalize.  Later, a Masuk fumble was recovered by Jared Dunn on the Masuk 29.  A tough Masuk holding penalty moved NHS closer and Jared covered the final fifteen yards up the middle.  Devin O’Connell kicked the extra point.  Newtown 21 Masuk 7 (2:47).

Jared Dunn (33) heads for the end zone

Newtown coach Bobby Pattison: “We have to be able to execute.  We ran that play that Jared scored on before and it didn’t work.  Later (on the scoring play) when we ran it correctly it worked.”

I have to admit that at this point, down by two touchdowns, I thought that the wheels were finally off of Masuk.

Into the 4th quarter we went and a wind-blown punt (Jack Mulligan) pinned Masuk deep.  Then there was a near-safety as Kevin Luke barely escaped the end zone.

Kevin Luke (7) swarmed near the end zone by Newtown defenders

Once again, Masuk, given up for dead, was far from it.

Senior Thomas Juliano stood in the end zone and had the arm and accuracy to get a throw to Chris Tillotson behind defenders Joe Paggett and Will Swierbut.  It was a footrace to the other end won by Chris.  Noel McCarter kicked the extra point.  Newtown 21 Masuk 14 (10:05).

Chris Tillotson (2) on a 99-yard reception

Plenty of time for the Panthers but this was where the Hawks showed me why they have been so successful this season: defense.

“I think we had some more big plays left but we never got to them,” said MHS coach Joe Lato.

Matt Dubois drops QB Thomas Juliano

“It was our defense that won the game,” surmised Matt Dubois.  And who could argue based on what Newtown did over the final ten minutes of the game.

I recall three Masuk possession in the last six minutes.  Each ended with standout Newtown defense.

  • Will Swierbut caught up to Henry Minnick who had gotten behind the Newtown defense and saved a TD.
  • Zack Loomis sacked QB Thomas Juliano on 4th down at the Newtown 20.
  • Joe Paggett intercepted a Masuk pass in the closing minute to end the Panthers final possession.

The Hawks had only given up thirty-four points all season and their late-game big plays showed how they were able to do that.

Jared Dunn (33) recovers a fumble

“Our defense had some big stands at the end,” recalled Newtown coach Bobby Pattison.

Ahead are the Division LL playoffs for Newtown.  “We’ve got states starting next Tuesday,” said Matt.  “We’ll see who we’re playing on Thursday.”

Masuk reached the Division L championship game last season.

College plans? Matt Dubois: “I am going to go to Johns Hopkins (Baltimore MD) to play football.  They’re a good program and are in the playoffs now.  I visited in the spring and liked it.”  Matt told me he was uncertain as to what courses he’ll take.  He was looking forward to joining the Blue Jays in 2019.

Masuk coach Joe Lato talks to his team afterwards

Coach Pattison: “We started too many times behind the stakes because of penalties.  You can’t take anything for granted in this conference.  The kids from Masuk are good.  They played a tough schedule and are a quality team.  That tackle (by Will Swierbut) saved a touchdown and was a key play.  He (Coach Lato) probably would have gone for two points.  We made mistakes and we need to clean them up to do well in the playoffs.”

Newtown has won the South-West Conference seven straight times and they have the same number of consecutive wins over Masuk.

Dan Mason finished the regular season with 1196 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns.

Many folks helped clear the stadium of snow after the November 15th storm.  Noticed that a lot of the snow was piled on the Masuk sidelines.

Good lighting at Blue-and-Gold but the cold breeze was tough.  The post-game clearout was almost a stampede!

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Chris Tillotson

Chris Tillotson (2) end zone defense

Chris Tillotson (Masuk) brought down by Joe Paggett (Newtown)

Dan Mason (7) and Mike Loomis (54)

Dan Mason (7) chased down the sidelines

Dan Verastro (22) chased by Jared Dunn (33)

Dan Verastro (22) follows David Canas (56)

Devin O’Connell’s last-second field goal attempt

Hannan’s (Luke and Jack)

James Knox (99) chases Thomas Juliano (15)

Jaren Dunn (33) raised the ball after scoring

Newtown managers

Mason’s (Dan)

AJ Mennona (75) post-game

Masuk gangs up on Dan Mason

Dubois’ (Matt)

Mellilo’s (Luke)

Near Newtown completion in Masuk end zone

Newtown celebrates first TD

Zeller’s (Joe)

Outcome reality sets in

Rick’s (Miles and Easton)




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Abby Gerdes’ goal gets Natick by Brookline 1-0 in D1 state semi-finals

Ashley Siaba (10) and Maya Leschly (17) chase a loose ball

(Lynn MA) The third time was not the charm for Brookline.

Instead it was same old, same old, as they fell to Natick 1-0 in the Division 1 state semi-finals on a very cold Wednesday night at Manning Field.

The Redhawks had a win (2-1) and a tie (0-0) versus Brookline in Bay State League play this season.

Senior Abby Gerdes had one of those two goals back in the September win at Brookline.

Abby added to her goal total in the second half to give the Redhawks (15-2-5) all they needed to advance to the finals on Saturday (at Worcester State) against Wachusett.

Natick celebrates Abby Gerdes’ second half goal

Maya Leschly (17)

“It was a great battle between two really good teams,” said Brookline coach Rob Sprague afterwards.  “Both were scrapping for opportunities and in the second half it fell to Natick.”

Abby Gerdes netted the game winner at 18:28. The senior found room on the right when she broke past a defender and into the open.  “Honestly, I play a lot on instinct,” she said.  “If I overthink I could screw up.  I saw the net and just went for it.  It wasn’t any different from practice.”

No surprise to Natick coach Dave Wainwright that Abby Gerdes would score such a huge goal: “Abby is just relentless in the box.  When she found it on her foot she knew exactly where she was going to go.  She’s done it all season.”

Abby also had a glittering chance in the first half.  She came in on the right and shot hard for the far corner.  Brookline goalie Katherine McElroy dove and tipped the shot just enough to keep it wide of the net.

Abby Gerdes’ shot deflected wide by GK Katherine McElroy

Also in the first half a hard Brookline entry shot bounced loose from Natick goalie Allison Jeter but her teammates were there to clear the ball away.

GK Allison Jeter give up a rebound but teammates arrived to clear it

Natick shot on the way

The high quality of play kept most of the action at midfield.  With few advantages for either side I suspected that this game would end in overtime or via penalty kicks.  Based on how uncomfortably cold it was, I was glad for the earlier ending.

Rob Sprague: “We gave up a little bit of space to (Abby) Gerdes.  She got a step and then a shot off. It looked from where I was standing as if the ball swerved.  There was a gust of wind and it seemed to knuckle on our goalie.”

Dave Wainwright: “At halftime we were worried about Eleanor Fisher and made some adjustments that helped us in the second half against her.”

Abby Gerdes: “It was easier to play calmly because of the composure the team had.  It made me confident while I was shooting.”

Eleanor Fisher (4) shoots

Hailey Murphy: “Brookline is our biggest competitor.  They’re a great team.”

Brookline was undefeated in nineteen straight games before tonight’s loss.

The Warriors (15-2-5) were the #2 seed in the North while the Redhawks were the #10 seed in the South.

In the 2-1 win back in September, Brookline scored first (Thea Feldgoise header) but thirty seconds later according to Coach Sprague, “Abby Gerdes dribbled through our entire defense and GK and scored.”

Natick has a chance Saturday for their first girls soccer title.  I wouldn’t bet against them!

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Abby Gerdes (3) and Hailey Murphy (13) in on GK Katherine McElroy

Abby Gerdes (3) and Lindsey Mahoney (25)

Corner kick action in the Brookline end

Eleanor Fisher (4), Maya Leschly (17), and Or Yahalom (7) look for a rebound

Katherine McElroy

Abby Gerdes looking for a rebound

Natick GK Allison Jeter

Natick starts to celebrate

Serena Sink


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Winchester starts fast and wins D2 North title 3-1 over Danvers

Winchester captains Delaney Markham, Augusta Burhans, Grace Casey, and Shelley Blusack with D2 North trophy

Winchester celebrated two goals in the first three minutes

(Lynn MA) It figured to be a close match.

#4 Danvers was the defending D2 state champ while #2 Winchester had lost only once.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

The Warriors (21-1) jumped on the Falcons (18-3-1) from the get-go with two goals in the first three minutes and another one in the first half.

Danvers would get a second-half PK score, but Winchester had separation early and took the D2 North title, 3-1, on Monday afternoon at Manning Field in Lynn.

The Warriors will vie for the D2 state title on Saturday (12:30PM) against Hopkinton at Xaverian High School.

“It was a dream start,” said Winchester coach Rick Emanuel post-game.  “We wanted to establish our style of play which is an attacking style of play.  We wanted to go out as quickly as we can and luckily a couple of our early shots went in.”

Winchester poured into the Danvers end on their first possession.  Ella Ross sent sophomore Ally Murphy deep into the Danvers end.  Ally was able to get almost on top of the Danvers GK before releasing a shot past her.  That took all of thirty-seven seconds!

Ally Murphy (15) scores the first Winchester goal

“When a goal happens there’s usually another one coming soon,” said Danvers coach Jim Hinchion.  “We hoped it would be us, but it wasn’t.”

Instead it was Winchester’s Hannah Curtin running the right side, turning the corner and driving in the second goal only ninety-four seconds after the first one.

“We definitely weren’t expecting to be able to score that quickly,” said Hannah Curtin afterwards.

“We felt that we would have opportunities wide,” said Coach Emanuel.

Lauren Clement shoots

The Falcons called timeout after the second goal.  They began to apply pressure.  “At no point did we think this game was out of reach for Danvers,” added Coach Emanuel.  “They are a strong, fast, skilled team that could get those goals.  I saw them do it against Masco.”

Lauren Clement, Arianna Bezanson, and Madison Capezzuto had shots on net for the Falcons during their attempts to get back into the game.

But then the D2 Player-of-the-Year (Hannah Curtin) went to work.  With exceptional speed and dribbling skills, she got past two defenders and drew the attention of other Falcons.  The extra defenders dealing with Hannah left space in the middle unoccupied.  That’s when Hannah sent a pass across the goal that teammate Jordan Weinberg was ready for at the far post.

“I turned away from the second defender,” recalled Hannah, “and crossed it to the second six.  Jordan (Weinberg) was there to finish.”

Jordan Weinberg (5) scores the 3rd Winchester goal

The third goal happened at 18:21.

Hannah Curtin and Abbi Clickstein

“We knew that they loved to go to 24 (Hannah Curtin),” said Coach Hinchion. “She’s the player-of-the-year.  When she brings it down the sideline it can open things up in the middle.  You talk about not losing sight of those marks but you’re also trying to see what 24 will do with the ball.”

The three-goal lead made life easier for the Winchester defense. “Having the lead lessens the nerves a little bit,” explained defender Hannah Markham.  “You play with a little more composure.”

“They were a really fast team, so we needed to get to the ball first,” added Hannah.  “There wasn’t a lot of time to dribble out of the back.  We kind of had to play kick-and-run but our forwards are really fast so it works.”

The Falcons trailed 3-0 at the half.

“We’ve been down before and come back but against a team like Winchester that defends so well, it was a lot to ask,” explained Coach Hinchion.

Danvers had several chances early in the second half.  On one of them, Riley DiGilio made a nice run down the left side.  On another, a corner kick ended up on the ground in the box, but Jessica Pelletier couldn’t get a foot on it.

At 22:18 Hannah Markham was whistled for knocking down a Falcon in the box.  Riley Baker converted the penalty kick.

Riley Baker penalty kick

“I didn’t think it was a penalty,” explained Hannah.  “The girl literally hit my body and fell.”

Hannah Markham

There was time for the Falcons but the Winchester defense, including Hannah Markham, used more long clearances to wear down Danvers and limit their time to attack.

The win by Winchester avenges a 1-0 loss to Danvers in last season’s D2 North title game.  “We never really talked about last year,” said Coach Emanuel.

Hannah Markham confessed that she was “still a little bitter over last year’s loss.”

Winchester is from the Middlesex League while Danvers is in the Northeastern Conference.

Danvers is 38-5-2 over the last two seasons.

Winchester, with one game to play, is 38-3-2.

We’re talking about two awfully good programs!

Winchester has now won eighteen straight games.  Only loss?  Notre Dame of Hingham.

Hannah Curtin (24) looks and dribbles

When asked about Hannah Curtin’s play today, Coach Emanuel answered the question with a question, “How about Hannah Curtin today and all season?”

“Hannah has been an important part of our success,” he added, “but she would be the first to tell you that she doesn’t do it alone.”

I take plenty of soccer pictures hoping to find action and the ball.  Usually when players are dribbling, they have their heads down.  In this game I caught Hannah dribbling and at the same time looking toward the middle for teammates to pass to.  Just a sophomore!

College plans? Hannah Markham: “I am going to go to Trinity (Hartford Ct) to play soccer.  I will probably major in business.”

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Action around the Winchester goal

Ally Murphy scored the first Winchester goal

Danvers captains Jessica Pelletier, Lauren Clement, Madison Pesce, Erica Blanch, and Riley Baker with the D2 North finalist trophy

Georgia Lawrence

Hannah Curtin (24) speeds into space

Madison Pesce

Riley Baker (19) avoids Augusta Burhans (17)

Riley DiGilio shoots

Winchester team with trophy

Jordan Weinberg

Loose ball in the box




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Amesbury tops Manchester-Essex in D4 North title game 2-1 in double OT

Amesbury poses with the D4 North title trophy

Plenty of contact in today’s game

(Lynn MA) Last time I saw the Manchester-Essex girls soccer team play Amesbury it was October and they scored early and often defeating the Indians, 3-0.

In the rematch today, the Indians won the Division 4 North title, 2-1, in double overtime at Manning Field.

Amesbury (15-3-4) moves on to the D4 state semi-finals on Wednesday against the South winner.

The difference-makers in today’s game?  Senior Chelsea Lynch and junior GK Alli Napoli.

Chelsea had both goals for Amesbury, including the game-winner, while Alli was a strong presence in net.

Hornets celebrated Jillian Bowen’s tying goal

Chelsea did not play in the 3-0 October loss, while Alli played just the second half after returning from an injury.

To take this back even further, the two teams met at Manchester-Essex in September.  The Indians won, 2-0.  Amesbury goals?  Both by Chelsea Lynch. Alli Napoli was in net for the shutout.

Both teams capitalized on misplays in the box during regulation; Chelsea Lynch in the first half and Jillian Bowen in the second half.

The longer this game went between the two Cape Ann League rivals the greater the emotional gap would be between the winner and the loser.

Dasa Haser was in the Amesbury box 1 ½ minutes into the second overtime but her shot went wide left.

Dasa Hase (16) and Avery Hallinan (21)

Alyssa Pettet sent a direct kick toward the left post with 3:15 left in that second OT but Maddie DiPietro couldn’t finish.

Next Amesbury possession freshman McKenna Hallinan got by one Hornet and passed ahead to Chelsea Lynch in space.  As the space closed, Chelsea shot past GK Bella Pomeroy just inside the near post.  Game over.

McKenna Hallinan gets by a defender before setting up Chelsea Lynch

Chelsea Lynch (12) shoots between Emma Cochand (11) and Drew Charlton (21) for the game winner

After the game-winner is scored.

Emma DiPietro hemmed in by Hornets

“What an ending,” said Amesbury coach Adam Thibodeau afterwards.  “Last year we got bumped out in a similar situation (state semifinals).”

Chelsea Lynch: “That last goal was a full effort from everyone behind me.  It came from midfield.  McKenna (Hallinan) made a beautiful pass to me.  Everything was going so fast.  I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity because there weren’t many of them.”

Very difficult loss for Manchester-Essex.  Amesbury had taken them out last year in the D4 North first round.  The Hornets improvement over last year was very evident.  They beat out Amesbury to win the Baker Division of the Cape Ann League and they were a higher seed (#4) than Amesbury (#6).

Maya Baker (1) and Ashlee Porcaro (14)

ME coach Luke Cosgrove has twice told me that what he wants from his team in a game is to, “start fast, score goals, and be tight in the back.”

In the October win over Amesbury, ME scored in the first 40 seconds and had a 3-0 lead after eleven minutes.  Against #1 Mystic Valley in the D4 North semis the Hornets scored in the first twenty seconds and led by five at the half in a 6-1 win.

When I looked at this D4 North final matchup I knew what ME wanted to do.  But they couldn’t.  The most dangerous of the Hornets (in my opinion) was Dasa Haser.  The talented sophomore is very fast, can get past defenders, and knows how to score.  She had two in the October win over Amesbury.

Dasa Hase (16) and Maddy Creps (2)

Dasa showed off her speed today but most of her shots were from long range.  There was one time in the 2nd OT, however, where she had the ball in the box, but Amesbury had three defenders and the goalie in front of her.

I waited for ME to score first but instead it was Amesbury exciting the crowd in the first half (15:13).

Chelsea Lynch had a chance for a separation goal ten minutes into the second half, but her shot was just wide left.

As the game moved into the latter stages of the second half it looked as if one goal might be enough.  It wasn’t.  Credit the Hornets.  They persisted and persisted finally tying things with 8:49 left as Jillian Bowen drove home a loose ball in the box.

Now we had ourselves a ballgame!

Jillian Bowen takes a corner kick

In the deciding second overtime, Amesbury had the wind to their backs and the sun was in GK Bella Pomeroy’s eyes.

There was no ten-minute cooling off period after the game for Coach Cosgrove.  He wasn’t happy with the loss and who could blame him.  I talked to Amesbury coach Adam Thibodeau right after the 3-0 loss to Manchester-Essex in October.  He wasn’t real happy either!

The Amesbury style of play was not to Coach Cosgrove’s liking. “We want to pass the ball around defenders.  They run real fast and try to intimidate defenders.”

No official will admit this, but in these big games, they would prefer to let the teams play without interfering.  Things are let go and there will be collisions.  Players go down and there are no calls.  Both sides get upset.

First Chelsea Lynch goal celebrated

The key to the Amesbury win?  Limiting Dasa Haser.  “They definitely did better on Dasa today,” said Coach Cosgrove. “When players like that get into the right spot, they can score goals against anyone, but Amesbury had some tough defenders on her.”

Maddy Creps was one of them: “There was a lot of running trying to keep up with her (Dasa).  I felt that we did a pretty good job of containing her.”

“We knew that both teams were ready,” said senior Emma DiPietro afterwards. “We knew it would be a huge battle.  Last season in the state semi-finals we lost in double overtime.  We didn’t want that to happen again.”

Alyssa Pettet (5) and Jillian Bowen (3)

Manchester-Essex cruised through opponents in the D4 North tourney.  “We were ready for a tough game after a tight win over St. Mary’s (1-0) in the semis,” said Coach Thibodeau.

Amesbury’s Alyssa Pettet claimed that a change of style was key to the win: “We got into just kicking the ball.  We had to change back to our game and keep the ball on the ground and try to complete passes. We did that, and we scored the winning goal.”

The sun was shining and the breeze wasn’t as strong as it can be at Manning Field.

Manchester-Essex finishes 15-4-2.  “We had a great season,” said Coach Cosgrove.  “Our kids did everything we asked.”

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Action along the sidelines

Alli Napoli and Meg McElaney

Ashley Flood and Maia Esty

Avery Hallinan

Emma DiPietro (11) dropped by Madison Lawler (15)

ME goalie Bella Pomeroy

Pressure on Amesbury GK Alli Napoli

Shirt tug Emily Beck (6) on Chelsea Lynch







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Brookline on to state D1 semi-finals after 2-0 win vs Lexington

Brookline captains Hallie Friedman, Alexa Ribatt, Katherine McElroy with trophy

Lexington captains Awani Kabra, Sheyda Hershberger, Reina Ades, Abigail Donaghy, Coach Alex Caram

Brookline extends their undefeated streak to nineteen games.

(Lynn MA) Nineteen straight games without a loss.

Brookline put the 19th together this afternoon defeating Lexington, 2-0, in the Division 1 North finals at Manning Field.

Junior Maya Leschly paced Brookline with an assist and a goal.

The Warriors (15-1-5) will be back in Lynn on Wednesday in the D1 state semi-finals.

Their opponent will be determined in the D1 South finals between #1 Newton South and #10 Natick on Monday.

A win by Natick would lead to an interesting rematch with Brookline.  Both teams are in the Bay State League and Natick has a win and a tie against the Warriors.

I saw Lexington put plenty of pressure on North Andover in their semi-finals victory.  Not today.  The Warriors did an excellent job of containing sophomore Aleia Gisolfi-McCready and freshman Kirsty Carnan.

“We haven’t been here before,” said Lex coach Alex Caram, “and they have.  I think experience really played a factor.”

That lack of experience put Brookline on the board (24:49) in the first half.

Unable to clear, the Warriors had time to send the ball from the right to an uncovered Maddie Priebe.

Maddie Priebe (6) about to kick a bouncing pass

Maddie Priebe (6) gets her left foot into a shot

Shot on the way

The BHS junior put a strong left foot into a bouncing pass and beat Lexington goalie Eliza Stokes with a shot just inside the near post.

“Maddie is one of our smartest players,” explained Brookline coach Robert Sprague post-game.  “She’s not a big player but she knows where to be to get that type of shot.  She’s scored a handful of goals like that this season.”

Junior Maya Leschly had the assist: “We have been working a lot this week on getting wide and crossing it into the box.  I did my part and Maddie had a great finish.”

In seeing Brookline for the first time, I hadn’t witnessed Katherine McElroy (Warriors goalie) in action.  I had read about her, recruited by D1 Michigan, but hadn’t seen why.  Now I know.

Goalie Katherine McElroy about to take a free kick.

Katherine McElroy

On Brookline free kicks, it was Katherine taking them.  The first one I saw her take traveled over fifty yards!  She took at least seven of them and they were all landing in the box area with plenty of pace on them.  The only exception was a kick from straightway (I have a picture of it.) that went just over the crossbar.  Credit Lex goalie Eliza Stokes for handling everything Katherine sent her way.  What a weapon!

“We were prepared for her kicks and Eliza did well against them,” said Coach Caram.  “We just couldn’t get behind the defense to really test her.”

Brookline’s one-goal lead carried into the second half.

Lexington, despite some good midfield play by Carolyn Lane, could not mount an attack with the formation they were using.  Desperate times require desperate maneuvers.

“We went to three in the back,” said Coach Caram.  “It was a chance we had to take to push our numbers forward.”

With fewer players defending, the Warriors collected the back-breaker at 7:39.  Sophomore Sam Friedman raced down the right side and had time to send a pass to a wide-open Maya Leschly breaking down the middle.  Brookline 2, Lexington 0.

Sam Friedman (19) about to get an assist on Brookline’s second goal

“We’ve been working on that back-post cross for about half the season,” recalled Coach Sprague.  “Maya was in the right spot and took a nice touch on it.  She made it look easy but in a big game like this it wasn’t really that easy.”

Maya Leschly: “Sam (Friedman) was so selfless.  She saw me and passed it where I could shoot. It was a great pass.”

That was it for Lexington (11-7-4).

“No one expected us to even be here,” said Coach Caram.  “I think we really elevated our play in the tournament and surprised a lot of people.  We had great leadership and I’m so proud of these girls.”

The sun was shining but it didn’t fool anyone at Manning Field.  There was a breeze that felt like the next season we experience in these parts.

Brookline has given up only eight goals in twenty-one games.  They’ve scored thirty-nine goals.

Brookline is in the Bay State League while Lexington is in the Middlesex League.

Coach Caram: “We’re a really young team.  Now we have experience for next year.  Hopefully we can get back here again.”

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Brookline raises the trophy

Aleia Gisolfi-McCready chases down a loose ball

Brookline team with trophy

Carolyn Lane

Erin O’Brien (3) and Maddie Priebe (6) celebrate first goal

Jen Fiore (9) and Maya Leschly (17)

Lexington team with finalists trophy

Maddie Priebe chased by Carolyn Lane

Sam Friedman (19) and Sheyda Hershberger (2)

Sheyda Herschberger (2) and Avani Kabra (8)

Maya Leschly (17) seeks out Sam Friedman after 2nd goal

Maya Leschly in front and Isa Lundstrom Svahnqvist in back.





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