EASTHAM ─ A tie-breaking shootout brought to a close the exciting 2017 season of the Nauset boys varsity soccer team, but before the heartbreak there was victory as the Warriors shut out Foxborough 5-0 in one of more than a dozen similar shutouts in a season that carried on the magic of the team's state championship winning 2016.
The Thursday night game was literally a battle of Warriors, with both teams bearing the same mascot but different uniform color, with Nauset clad in their traditional gold. After a challenging first half in which the home team and No. 1 seed netted one goal thanks to Ethan Craven on a feed from Avery Santoro, the Warriors in gold went on to hammer the Foxborough net in the second half, scoring a quartet of goals en route to victory.
Nauset head coach John McCully said he told his team at the break that the next goal scored in the game would be the most important goal of the year.
“It was a close, contested game,” he said. “Man for man we're probably better soccer players, but they had the grit and we knew they were going to grind for 80 minutes.”
Though McCully acknowledged a difficult first half that saw a number of Foxborough possessions but no scores, he said his squad eventually wore down their opponents.
“The chances we created throughout the game, that just wears on people,” he said. “And that's what happened in the second half.”
Perhaps the play of the game came in the aforementioned first half when it looked like the visiting Warriors were about to get on the scoreboard. Then came the lightning fast reaction of goalie Jack Avellar who somehow maintained enough of a focus on the ball that he was able to execute a deflecting leap to preserve the shutout.
“It was probably the only save probably made in the first half, but that's what he's gotta do,” said McCully. “He's a good goalkeeper. Our back four is very, very good and Jack hasn't had to do a whole lot, but every time he's had to make a big-time save he comes up with it.”
Seemingly energized following halftime, the home team struck early with that key goal when a corner from Curtis Moore set up a header from Alex Drown with a nice assist from Abdel Talabi.
Minutes later Vance Bates sent in a sliding shot to put Nauset up 3-0 and fire up the sizable crowd, with James McCully sending the ball to an open Santoro for goal No. 4 in the match. Akeem Griffiths capped off the scoring for the home team in the final minute of the win.
“I thought we possessed the ball a little better second half,” said Coach McCully. “Vance Bates and Ethan got on the ball a little more in the second half, so our pace in the wide areas really started to break them down. What I liked about Ethan and Vance, they were actually able to turn the corner in the second half and that really put a lot of pressure on [Foxborough]. The bottom line is, to win this thing you've got to score goals and they knew once we scored the first one they were in trouble.”
Bates said the game was significant for him not only because it was his final home game, but also because of the bond he shares with his teammates.
“It meant everything to me,” he said. “I've been playing with these boys since I was 8 years old. It meant the world to me to come out here and win so we could continue the season.”
Unfortunately the team's season came to a close when a tough Oliver Ames team won the semifinal match on a penalty kick on Saturday, marking a bittersweet finale for the team's seniors.
“It's a special senior class,” said their head coach, whose son was among them. “I've been here some 20-something years and it's far the best class we've ever had. This class has raised our level of play here to an elite level.”