In Historic First, Vineyard Boys Reach Soccer Championship; Game Tomorrow
By ALEXIS TONTI
For the first time in school history, the varsity boys' soccer team has advanced to the regional championships, with a 1-0 victory over Sandwich last night in the regional semi-final.
The regional final will be played at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Brockton High School againstMiddleboro, which advanced with a 2-1 win over Somerset.
The Vineyarders, who finished the regular season with a 13-2-3 record, came into the post-season tournament as the second seed. Three victories this week - all shutouts for four-year varsity goalie Russell Hodson - have now earned them their place in the championship game.
In yesterday's contest, the Vineyard's lone goal came late in the first half when midfielder Hans Broscheit laid the ball off to striker Lucas Brewer, who scored with a left-footed shot to the upper corner.
Rain that began yesterday afternoon had muddied the field well before game time. But despite the slippery conditions, both teams came out with momentum.
"The Vineyard just had more opportunities to score, especially in the second half," said coach Bob Hammond, who before the game characterized third seed Sandwich as an even match. "We came out pumped up, and immediately had seven or eight great chances."
The Vineyarders played their home opener against Sandwich this fall. Brewer scored in that game, too - all they needed for a 1-0 victory then. But later one of the team's two losses was at the hands of the Indians, in a hard-fought match at Sandwich. Because of those two earlier matches, Coach Hammond said going into yesterday, "our players know theirs pretty well."
In the first two post-season games, played at home against Walpole and Holliston, the Vineyarders came out quietly in the first half, often finding themselves on the defensive. But the second halves were marked by explosive soccer, with the boys capitalizing on their speed and deft footwork to make plays.
"We've definitely been more on our heels in the beginning, and then by the half figure out how to respond," said Mr. Hammond. "It hasn't been intentional, but it seems to work for us."
On Tuesday the boys took on seventh seed Holliston in the quarter-finals. The day was raw and windy, and a cold rain started during halftime. But the stands were filled with both Holliston and Vineyard fans, who huddled under blankets and umbrellas, for the full 80 minutes of play.
Although the teams went scoreless through the first half, the momentum of the game was with the Panthers. They spread the field well and kept the pressure on the Vineyard net.
But 10 minutes into the second half, midfielder Broscheit scored for the Vineyard. The play was set up by defender Nate Thayer, who sent a long ball to Broscheit up the left side of the field. Broscheit dodged several defenders before ripping a shot into the net.
Afterward the pace became somewhat frenzied, with players booting the ball from one end to the other. Holliston managed a few shots that sailed wide right. Then with 16:43 to go, defender Matt Brown took a free kick that bent toward the goal and was headed in by Brewer.
Down 2-0, Holliston put up a fight: In a particularly intense possession, with less than 10 minutes on the clock, the Panthers got two corners and had four scoring opportunities in the space of a minute. One shot passed just left of goal.
But the Vineyarders came away with the victory.
"They came out with a lot of intensity, and threw everything at us in the first half. We had to absorb a lot of pressure," said Mr. Hammond. "But we were able to settle down at halftime and then attack a little more ourselves."
He pointed to the excellent play of senior Jesse Sylvia and freshman Ben Post, both midfielders.
"Jesse had his best game of the year, and Ben did a great job playing both ends of the field, especially late in the game. He did a great job disrupting the other team's attack."
The Vineyarders had hosted the Walpole Raiders on Sunday in the first round of the tournament. Walpole, the fifteenth seed, defeated Blue Hills in a preliminary game to earn their Island trip.
The day was mild with a cool breeze, and the fans kept coming during the first half. Slowed by penalties on both sides, neither team had scored by halftime. Then, with 21:23 to go, midfielder Jamie Greene found the net. Post started the play with the ball in front of the goal; he passed to Brewer, who got off a shot. Walpole's goalkeeper blocked the ball but could not hold onto it, and Greene sent one in off the rebound.
The Vineyard went on to win the game 1-0. A second goal by Brewer, made in the final minute, was waived because Walpole had pulled their goalkeeper all the way to mid-field in a final offensive push.
"With both Walpole and Holliston, the one thing we knew ahead of time was they were coming out of very strong leagues," said Coach Hammond. "They play great soccer, year-round soccer, and are sophisticated with strong technical skills. We knew we would have our work cut out for us.
"These games mean everything to these guys," he added. "It's almost too much to put into words. They're riding on Cloud Nine."
Results of the championship game will be posted on mvgazette.com