Hyde School 1 (4-2 PK)
Waring School 1
Hyde Boys Varsity Soccer traveled to Beverly Massachusetts on Saturday to play the semifinal round of the NEPSAC New England Tournament. The game was played on Waring School’s natural grass field under sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures.
Waring School had a distinct home field advantage in a literal sense. Their field was in tough shape after a season of play, missing grass in key areas near the goal and quite uneven throughout. This made it difficult for the Phoenix to play their style of soccer since the ball was unpredictable when traveling on the ground. That notwithstanding, Waring was a very good team who moved the ball well and made quick transitions from defending to attacking. For a lot of the first half of play, it was back and forth with both teams having chances to score. In the 39thminute, Waring was awarded a penalty kick for a hard tackle in the box. They converted it to go up a goal. The score was 1-0 at the half.
The Phoenix made some tactical changes for the second half that included moving fullback Eric Stone`14 from the left side to the right, and pushing David Wu`15 to the left. Also, winger Ben Mooney`16 moved up top to striker, Wilson MacMillan`14 went to center mid and Cole Faulkner`15 moved out to the right wing. This resulted in Hyde being more effective at moving the ball into a stronger offensive position. Consequently, they controlled the pace and possession for much of the second half. In the 69th minute, the Phoenix worked the ball down the right flank and was able to create a corner kick opportunity. Kiefer Cundy`15 took the kick. He put a beautiful ball into the box near the far post toWilson MacMillan`14 who scored on an amazing full volley blast to tie it 1-1. Both teams played with intensity for the remainder of regulation, but the game remained knotted after 90 minutes.
Both 5 minute overtime periods were much the same as the second half. That is to say, Hyde had their opponent pinned down in their end, but despite numerous scoring chances Waring was able to weather the storm and keep the ball from finding the back of the net. This resulted in the match being determined by a penalty kick shootout.
Hyde’s Kiefer Cundy`15 shot first and scored. The first Waring player also converted his PK to make it 1-1 in the shootout. Andrew Davis`15 buried his shot in the back of the net and keeper Noah Horning`15 made a save to make it 2-1 after the second round. Wilson MacMillan`14 rung the left post on his low hard shot, but it went in to score the 3rd PK for Hyde. Waring scored on their 3rd PK to make it 3-2. Eric Stone`14 shot 4th for Hyde and scored on a beaut. Amazingly, keeper Noah Horning`15 saved Waring’s 4th round shot to seal the win and advance the team to the finals which were played at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut on Sunday.
Hyde School : 1(OT)
Rocky Hill School: 0
The Championship match was played at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut on a pristine natural grass pitch under cloudy skies and damp but warm conditions. The excitement of the day was exhilarating as there were three matches being played in close proximity to each other. The best teams from all across New England were present to square off in championship matches for class A, B, C, and D. In addition to the eight teams that advanced to the finals, there were also two all-star games being played, the combination of which brought numerous dedicated fans and a significant contingency of college coaches who were scouting for players.
The last time the Phoenix faced the Mariners was last year when they defeated them in the quarterfinals of the New England tournament. Like last year, they had some skilled players that could move the ball well and a couple of speedy forwards up top. This proved to be effective for them in the first half of play. However, strong defending by centerback Andrew Davis`15, stopper Dow Drukker`15, right fullback David Wu`15and left fullback Eric Stone`14 helped keep the game scoreless during the first half of play. The Hyde boys struggled to connect their passes and build attacking momentum during the first 25 minutes of the game. They had a few chances to score, but none that resulted in goals early. Midway through the half, the Phoenix scored on a ball played in on a throw-in; the goal was called back due to an attacking player being in an off sides position. The score at the half time break was 0-0.
Hyde came out with renewed intensity in the second half. Tactically, Cole Faulkner`15 moved up top to striker and Wilson MacMillan`14 went to center midfield. This change combined with more focused play from wingers James Lee`15 on the right and Chris Baldwin`15 on the left resulted in much more possession and allowed Hyde to stretch the opponents defense. For much of the second half, the ball stayed in the Phoenix attacking third of the field. Captains Wilson MacMillan`14 and Kiefer Cundy`15 did an exceptional job of controlling the flow through the midfield. However, even with the increased offensive pressure, the Phoenix couldn’t find the back of the net. Regulation time ran out before either team scored and the game went into overtime.
The teams switched ends and regrouped before embarking on the golden goal overtime period. Two minutes into the play, Wilson MacMillan`14 took a spectacular shot from the left side of the box, but the ball ricocheted off the upper right post then the top post and bounced out. The Phoenix did not let up however, and keep the ball in the opponents defensive end. With less than 3 minutes left in overtime, Hyde took a corner kick from the left side. Kiefer Cundy`15 calmly set the ball, looked up, evaluated the situation and served the ball into the field of players. Like he had practiced numerous times, Wilson MacMillan`14 executed his run perfectly, connecting with incoming ball on a sweet header that went into the goal out of reach of their keeper outstretched arm to win the championship.
These boys had a remarkable season. They faced numerous obstacles along the way to securing their second consecutive New England Championship title. The Phoenix are known around the our league, and now New England, as a team that can never be counted out; they find a way to win. They have demonstrated intense levels of competitiveness, outstanding sportsmanship, and stretched themselves to find their individual and collective best in a synergistic way. Both coach Coleman and I are very proud of their strength of character, and how they play the game of soccer. These boys have grit. They are Champions, again!