MTOC Finals Post Game Write-up & Interviews

LANCASTER, MA — The last day of June was an eventful day for the Massachusetts Youth Soccer MTOC State Championships. What turned out to be a beautiful day in the start quickly changed to thunder, lightning and unrelenting rain. However that did not stop 14 teams from becoming their age-groups and division’s champions.

Defense reigned supreme on the day with five games going to penalty shootouts, but there were some offensive showcases for those who love goals. Below is a brief description of each game, along with the quotes of the winning manager or a player from the winning team.

Boys Grade 5/6 D2 Final: Ludlow 0-1 Dover-Sherborn

The Boys Grade 5/6 Division 2 final between Ludlow and Dover-Sherborn was a physical match. Multiple players from both teams went down with injuries during the entirety of the match. In the end it was Dover-Sherborn that took the match. They scored from a corner kick early in the first half and never looked back. Ludlow tried to get back into the match, but they could not gain a foothold in midfield. In the end Dover-Sterborn were deserved champions, thanks to strong defending in midfield and by their backline.

Dover-Sherborn Player Gavin Hill:

“It was very hard, and to play that many games in one weekend really took a toll on every one of us. So I’m really glad that we were able to pull the win out in the end.”

“When we played in the final they [Ludlow] had this one good and really quick kid in the middle, and we had to find the player to mark him and shut him down. We were also trying to find through-balls because that’s how we were able to score our goal.”

Dover-Sherborn Player Ian Hecker:

“There were really good teams that we had to face up against. So overall it was a good tournament that was really tough on us.”

“Usually we have the two wing-backs press for us, and if they lose the ball we make sure to be really positionally aware and man-mark to stop any attacks.”

Girls 11/12 Final: Braintree (PEN) 1-0 Bridgewater

Braintree narrowly beat out Bridgewater for the Girls 11/12 Final on penalties. Both teams struggled to create goal scoring chances before and after the lightning delay. However, it was Bridgewater who kept their nerves during penalty kicks.

Braintree’s Coach Rudy Giannandrea:

“Through the delay we tell the team not to load up on any bad food, but mostly we tell them to stay loose, stay hydrated and be ready to go when the whistle sounds to come back on the field.”

“This group of girls, and I’ve been doing this for twelve years, this is the best group of girls I’ve ever had. There are no egos, no superior attitudes. They all play strong for each other and off the field they are just as friendly as they are on the field. And they want to play hard for each other. And they learn a lot of life lessons on the field that they can take into the world with them. They’re just good friends on and off the field, and that is what makes this team a lot easier to coach.”

Braintree’s Coach Dan Giannandrea:

“Sometimes the game isn’t always physical. It’s also mental, and you have to be smart in times like that. So the idea is to stay together as a group and as a team, and focus on what we do.”

“They are a remarkable and extraordinary group of young women who play for each other, and that’s it.”

Girls Grade 7/8 D2 Final: Arlington 0-1 (PEN) Westwood

Yet another match that was delayed by the thunderstorm. Westwood and Arlington cancelled each other out before and after the delay. And when neither team could find a winner in extra time, they went to penalties. In the end it was Westwood that won on penalties, claiming the Girls Grade 7/8 D2 championship.

Westwood’s Head Coach, Terry Connaughton:

“I think for us the way to stay focused was to keep it simple. So the one thing that I’ve always understood about penalties is that you pick a side and you strike the ball as hard as you can to that side. Don’t try to aim for the top or the corner. So we just try to keep the instructions simple. And we didn’t tell the girls up until the last minute who was taking penalty kicks, so that they wouldn’t be stressing out over time because we had at least the 45 minute delay. And I think that is really what is was all about, keeping it simple.”

“Again it’s about keeping it simple, and taking it one game at a time. We did not try to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who are opponents were. We just knew what time our next game was and we were focused on doing the right things to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

Boys Grade 7/8 D2 Final: Somerville 0-2 Acton-Boxboro

Acton-Boxboro claimed the Boys Grade 7/8 Division 2 title after beating Somerville 2-0. Somerville found it difficult to break down a result Acton-Boxboro defense. Acton-Boxboro’s defense, made up of mostly eighth graders, did not concede a goal all tournament and was the real star of their tournament. Two goals on either side of halftime sealed the victory by Acton-Boxboro.

Acton-Boxboro Head Coach, Peter Henry:

“It’s been nice because this is the seventh and eighth grade division combined, and we’re more than half seventh graders, so the boys have never played together before this year. But I think they are really lucky that they played this well together. Our eighth grade squad is a beast on defense and our seventh graders score 90% of our goals. They learned very early in the season that they could trust each other to do that, and I think that has been a big part of their success.”

“We know that they’ve [Somerville] got some really big and fast strikers. So they try to play that through ball on the kick-and-run. But our whole game is about keeping the ball on the floor and keeping it simple. And when we did that, we took away their kick-and-run. We just stuck to our gameplay and made them [Somerville] play our game.”

Girls Grade 5/6 D2 Final: West Bridgewater (PEN) 1-0 Saugus

It was a highly contested game in the Girls Grade 5/6 D2 Final. Neither West Bridgewater or Saugus created many clear scoring chances. The game had less than five minutes left when it was interrupted by the lightning storm. When the teams resumed the match, there was not enough time to score a goal toward the end of overtime. West Bridgewater would prevail on penalty kicks, scoring each of their spot-kicks to win the title.

West Bridgewater Head Coach, Kevin Morash:

“Our team battles. We are all heart, all effort, we showed max effort all weekend, and it’s just a great group of girls. They were phenomenal, better people, and faced a lot of adversity in the game, but pushed through it. They really are just an awesome group. We focus on the next play because the other team [Saugus] is in the same boat. We can’t control any other factors, we just had to go out there and compete.”

Boys 11/12 Final: Kingston 2-0 North Andover

Kingston scored two goals before the lightning delay disrupted their game against North Andover. However the nearly two-hour delay did not disrupt Kingstons focus as they saw out the rest of the game. North Andover did not have too many chances to score. This was down to the exceptional play of Kingston’s backline.

Girls Grade 9/10 D1 Final: Bridgewater 3-0 Walpole

The Bridgewater Girls Grade 9/10 had a strong showing against Walpole in their final match. All three goals were scored before the lightning delay. When the delay was over, Bridgewater relied on its strong defense to see the rest of the game out.

Bridgewater’s Head Coach, Bryan Berry:

“My back four were fantastic, they were not allowing any penetration. My keeper was coming out and being aggressive, it was great. They were all working together. It’s been a great group, and they’re just able to take the ball away and be super aggressive.”

“On the attacking side, the whole midfield, and coordination that these girls have had from playing many years together, by setting up the through balls was everything we needed. We have good speed up top so we able to break through the defense and put the ball in the back of the net.”

“These girls are always in good shape with all the other sports that they’re involved in, and they’ve played for so many years together, that the team chemistry is just such a special bond they have. They work hard, they’re such good friends, they all work really hard together and they have years of experience that makes these runs. We had a great run all season. We had a great run here at the tournament, winning all five games and just giving up one goal. It’s a testament to how together they really are.”

Girls Grade 9/10 D2 Final: Stoneham 2-4 Fall River

The Girls Grade 9/10 D2 Final was an offensive feast for those in attendance. Both Stoneham’s and Fall River’s attacks were effective in the match. But it was Fall River’s offense that prevailed, scoring four goals, compared to Stoneham’s two, to claim the title.

Fall River’s Head Coach, Ronald Rodriguez:

“This team shows class and character. I ask them to always to always hydrate, eat well and be prepared. You never know how the game is going to be or what the outcome is going to be, so be prepared. Also be mentally and physically prepared for this. Some games can be physical and some may not be, so we have to be prepared.”

“I told our forwards to exploit any weakness, use your skills and play possessive ball. It’s something I told them the entire tournament. Play the game that we always play which is finding feet. We don’t like to play the long ball or chase. We want to possess the ball, attack forward and get the balls in a close as we can to the opponents goal.”

Boys Grade 5/6 D1 Final: Cohasset 0-4 Pembroke

Pembroke had a convincing 4-0 win over Cohasset to claim the Boys Grade 5/6 D1 title. Pembroke scored two quick goals in the first half, then their match was delayed due to lightning. However, this did not phase Pembroke as they re-asserted their dominance and doubled their lead, winning the title.

Pembroke’s Coach, Ted Krowley:

“The quick ball was really working. You know we are a real footballing team. We like to put the ball on the ground and play the way we did this morning. We played a team today that put every ball was in the air, and we reacted to what they were doing. This afternoon we played our game, which is football. We have a lot of footballers on this team, real footballers. We moved the ball. Quick one-twos, in-and-outs, ball over the top, and after a while it breaks down the other side. We had two goals before the lightning break, and then came back in the second half and dominated the game.”

Pembroke’s Coach, Brian Gill:

“We work on winning the 50/50 balls in midfield and then move the ball up to counter-attack. And I think our final three [defenders] played well the entire tournament. They only let up a couple of shots and a couple throughout the entire tournament. I think we started the entire tournament with our strong defense and then moved the ball forward.”

Pembroke’s Coach, Phil Reilly:

“The players have to have their minds focused on the game. They need to be prepared to play. And we work hard with these kids during the week. We practice this two, three times a week and it shows when you come to tournaments and kids are playing back-to-back games.”

“The big thing we tell our defense is that nothing bounces, nothing bounces in front. And it’s tough at this age because kids can’t head a ball, but they always have to put something on the ball. Because if the ball bounces and goes by, then you’re turning and chasing the game. You’re giving the opposition a chance. We can’t let that happen. The ball has to go forward. Everything must go forward.

“But like Ted said earlier, ‘We are a soccer team, we are a footballing team.’ We like to put the ball down and play around. We also build up from the back. Our goalkeeper can punt the ball, but we like to play from the back and build from that. We’re strong all over the field, and it showed this weekend. We were undefeated, and shipped only two goals all weekend. That shows.”

Girls Grade 7/8 D1 Final: Andover 0-1 Needham

The Girls Grade 7/8 D1 title was a competitive match between Andover and Needham. However, Needham scored an early goal and hung on to the lead for the entire match. Andover’s attack was thwarted multiple times by the impressive play of Needham’s defense and goalkeeper.

Needham’s Head Coach, Jimmy McShane:

“I think our defense all starts with our practices. We practiced really hard and it shows up in the games. We didn’t have a sub for the semifinals or finals today, so I think we were mentally and physically fit. We wanted to have a couple of opportunities for counter because we knew we couldn’t do a lot of running. We had to absorb a lot of the pressure and then try to get our attacking players free for a goal. That’s what gave us the ability to hang in and play some situational soccer and put one in the net. Then from there it was team defending.”

“We have a very deep team. And in tournament play we had the five games. I think we played some good soccer. We try to move the ball as much as possible and really make the ball do the work. There were also a lot of situations in the game that we talked about in practice, like being smart on the field. And the kids really responded to it and had the ability to do that over the course of the five games.”

Boys Grade 7/8 D1 Final: Revere 1-2 (PEN) Brockton

Brockton and Revere traded two early goals in the Boys Grade 7/8 D1 final. The two teams carried this stalemate all the way through the rest of the match and into extra time. When neither team was able to score in extra time the game moved to penalty kicks, like so many other finals did today. In the end it was Brockton who prevailed in the penalty shootout.

Brockton’s Head Coach, Jose Veiga:

“We just have to be relaxed. We’ve actually been in that situation several times this year. We told the boys to maintain and be calm. Today we didn’t play really well, but the boys played their hearts out. And at the end they remained calm and were able to execute their chances, and all their hard work paid off.”

“I’ve been with these boys for three years now, and they’ve worked really hard. To show this determination throughout the whole season and this tournament really helped them accomplish what they set out to do.”

Girls Grade 5/6 D1 Final: Hingham 0-1 Grafton

This was the third game that finished 1-0 in regular time. And it was Grafton that got the crucial goal to win the Girls Grade 5/6 D1 Final. Grafton’s defense was the star, much like many other teams’ during the day.

Grafton’s Head Coach, Keith Nevins:

“This team has got great perseverance. They’ve played a lot of game these past couple years and they come to bat together for our town. They have great camaraderie and are a great group of friends. The girls have been playing together for five years now and they know how to stay focused and work together, talk to on another and really communicate. And they did a wonderful job holding this team [Hingham] at bay.”

Boys Grade 9/10 D1 Final: Cambridge 1-2 (PEN) Scituate

In the last match of the day Scituate and Cambridge went all the way to penalties. Both teams scored during regular time, seeding the match to extra time. The shootout went to sudden death, and it was Scituate who won after their goalkeeper saved Cambridge’s eighth penalty attempt.

Scituate’s Goalkeeper, Nicolas Alvarez:

“I usually look and see if they just glance towards one of the corners and then stare somewhere else. I generally don’t look back at that first corner because that’s where they are usually going to go. Or if they stare at a corner for a long time and then glance the other way, I know to go that way.”

“I feel like it’s pretty important for our team to score. Because, if we don’t score, then we don’t win. But I still have to do my part as well. And our first day was a little rocky, we probably should have won our first match, but we really stepped up during the second day and won two games. And we came out today and we were running on all cylinders.”

Boys Grade 9/10 D2 Final: North Andover 2-3 Cape Ann

In a back-and-forth match between Essex County rivals, it was Cape Ann who just beat North Andover in the Boys Grade 9/10 D2 Final. Both teams trade goals throughout the match, but it was Cape Ann who got the decisive third goal in the second half.

Cape Ann’s Head Coach, Kyle Hurd:

“Composure, bringing a sense of urgency and being able to play with controlled aggression were key for us. Being able to keep your head and your wits about you to open up space, and not just to sprint forward, was key. There’s a lot of preparation, some yelling and some headaches. We struggled in the middle of the season, but after that we turned it around immediately and hit the ground running.”

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