NORTH EASTHAM – It's been almost a year since the Nauset boys varsity soccer team won the state championship, and they're determined to do it again. The Warriors edged a little closer to their goal last week when they defeated the Duxbury Dragons 3-1 in the Div. 2 South quarterfinals.
Playing in front of a packed house before the rain fell on Nov. 7, the Warriors made it clear from first touch that they were in it to win, netting their first goal on an indirect kick after a Duxbury foul. Stalwart defenders Ben LaBranche and Ethan Boyle combined forces in the score, with LaBranche knocking the ball over to Boyle for the goal at the 21-minute mark.
The Warriors next goal came less than five minutes later when Boyle turned a free kick into a stellar cross that Sebastian Headrick headed into the net, putting Nauset up 2-0 midway through the first half as the home team crowd cheered.
When the Dragons upped their intensity in the second half, thwarting several scoring chances by the Warriors, Nauset followed suit, maintaining constant communication among players throughout the half until Shavar Champagnie found himself flying solo in front of the Duxbury net near the 78th minute of game play, handily sending the ball past Duxbury keeper Thomas Donnelly to put Nauset up 3-0.
Although a super-late Duxbury goal prevented a shutout on Nauset's part, the Warriors were unfazed, allowing a moment's celebration following the final whistle before talk among teammates turned toward the upcoming semifinals against Oliver Ames tonight (Nov. 14) at Sandwich High.
A win puts Nauset in the Div. 2 state finals against either Milford or Bishop Feehan. Last year the Warriors dispatched Milton in the first round of the playoffs before defeating Hopkinton in the quarterfinals, Foxborough in the semifinals, and Walpole in the finals, with their state championship win coming against Arlington.
This season the Warriors defeated Walpole 4-0 in the first round, with goals from Connor Cushing on an assist from Anthony Lovati, Champagnie from Spencer Rushnak, and Headrick, who headed in a free kick from Boyle, with the final goal coming from Laird Parker with another Lovati assist.
Nauset's no stranger to winning the state championship, having won last year and in 2016. The 2019 seniors are looking for another trophy.
“They want what other teams have accomplished before them,” said Nauset head coach John McCully. “Our goal coming in was to defend what was ours, and we certainly wanted to defend the home field advantage that we had. I thought our kids played a dynamite first half. Got two nice goals up.”
McCully said it was the third goal that really cemented the win though.
“We're always begging for that third one to put the game away,” he said. “It took us a while to get it in the second half, but each team you play in the tournament is going to be more and more difficult. They (Duxbury) did a nice job in the second half slowing us down a little bit to prevent us from getting that goal, but overall a good, dominant effort by our guys.”
Though he would have liked to see his team finish some of the missed chances in the second half, McCully was pleased with the win, and gave kudos to several key players.
“My two stud center backs, Benny LaBranche and Ethan Boyle, were rock solid defenders, and Sebastian Headrick was dynamite in the midfield for us,” McCully said.
So what is it that has led the 2019 squad to such heights, ideally with more to come?
“Passion,” said McCully. “Standard of excellence. The standard has been set before them and they want to keep that standard going. They want a piece of it.”