On a clear, brisk night Nov. 3 that was made for soccer, the 27th -ranked Marblehead boys soccer team (5-10-4) played host to Chicopee Comprehensive (13-7), the 38th seed, in a Division 2 preliminary round state tournament game. But unfortunately, for the second straight year the Magicians were bounced from the postseason rather quickly, losing a heartbreaker this time to the Colts, 1-0.
Coming into the game, the Magicians were battle-tested after a challenging regular season schedule that pitted them against a steady stream of formidable Division 1 and 2 opponents. But from the opening whistle, the Magicians were tentative, struggling to find a rhythm.
Chicopee Comprehensive brought some offensive strength to the pitch after scoring 51 goals in 18 games this fall. They were able to apply pressure, while moving the ball well initially, before unleashing several dangerous shots that silenced the Marblehead fans momentarily.
Early indicators showed that Chicopee’s strength was in playing conservative, mistake-free soccer, while the Marblehead defense was able to curtail the visitors’ attack. Goalie Rory Zampese made several great saves, before briefly leaving the field with an injury. Backup Leo Rappone then fired up the crowd by making a huge save to keep the game scoreless at the half. It was an excellent way to complete a fine season for the exchange student.
The Marblehead boys had a more renewed focus, and returned to what worked well for them
throughout the regular season — solid distribution from the center by London MacDonald; great field awareness and smart, aggressive play by forwards Stef Shepard, James Achterhof, Max Dressel and Kyle Hart; playing the ball skillfully down the lines by Jared Halpern and Luke Miller; and the speed and skill of outside middies Jack Burke and Ilan Druker.
The defensive front of Colin White, Adam Loughlin, captain Riley Schmitt and Oliver Murtagh was in full display. They increasingly tightened the line, leaving the Colts with little room to work with as the minutes ticked away.
The game, however, turned on a soft foul with 23 minutes left. The penalty kick was beautifully placed, curving just outside the wall of defenders, before bouncing in front of the goal line. Zampese dove for the block, but the ball still found its way into the back of the net to break the scoreless tie.
The final 20 minutes was all Marblehead. The Magicians dominated possession after stepping up the attack in the Chicopee end.
With 10:45 remaining, Druker took a direct kick near the sidelines from the 25, before bending the ball to Schmitt, who headed it well, only to see it sail over the crossbar.
At 9:18, Matthew Sherf split the Chicopee defenders to break through a seam. He then just missed unloading a shot before colliding with the goalie. The Chicopee goalie was sensational throughout the game. He made numerous blocks, several of them from close-in range in the final minutes.
Shepard had a great opportunity after receiving a pass across his body. He then fired to the right, but the keeper was there to intercept it.
The Magicians kept on firing, with two more threats coming from captain Jack Burke. The team was determined not to go down quietly. But their shots didn’t hit the mark, and as a result they could never get the equalizer.
For the seniors on the team, the ending was bittersweet. It signified the end of a long soccer journey that began over 12 years ago. They will take many positive memories with them, including this most recent game against the Colts, when they extended maximum effort in trying to bring home a win.
Troy Miller supplied the content for this report.