COHASSET – All the best stories must end, and although the Cape Tech boys varsity soccer team didn't get its storybook happy ending, their heads were high after falling in the Div. 4 South semifinals against Atlantis Charter Monday.
“None of us expected to get this far,” said senior captain Rick Goncalves following a tough 5-1 loss to the Tritons. “Everyone was focused on the Mayflower League. It was amazing how far we got and we're proud of where we got.”
Not only did the Crusaders win the Mayflower League, but they also made it farther in the tournament than any team in at least a decade, and did it during a year of change within Cape Tech athletics.
This year marked the Crusaders' foray into the Mayflower Small after leaving the Cape and Islands League at the end of the last school year. It was a move that proved positive for the boys soccer team, which struggled in the Cape and Islands League but ended up winning the Mayflower Small with a record of 9-0-1.
Then they embarked on their historic tournament run that saw them defeat Sacred Heart 3-2 in the first round, setting up a quarterfinal match with Nantucket on Nov. 7, won by Cape Tech 2-1 much to the surprise of the visiting Whalers.
“This team is special,” said Cape Tech head coach Ivan Popov. “They just want to keep making history here for the school, for themselves, and I'm so proud of these guys.”
The Crusaders wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard against Nantucket, putting up their first goal just minutes into game play. Just three minutes in, Cape Tech was awarded a corner kick, which they capitalized on. Goncalves took the kick, firing the ball toward the center of a mix of players from both sides. Near the corner of the net, Alex Tylinski was waiting, and when the ball came his way he made a leaping header that soared into the net to give Cape Tech an early 1-0 edge.
Sadly, less than a minute later Tylinski suffered a shoulder injury that took him out of the game and ultimately ended his season.
A Nantucket corner put Cape Tech's defense on notice, but the shot went wide and the Crusaders kept the lead even as tensions on the field began mounting. With the ball back in Cape Tech possession, Goncalves embarked on a run, firing a shot that scooted past Nantucket keeper Justin Ho-Shue, giving the home team a 2-0 lead eight minutes into the game.
From then on it was a defensive game for Cape Tech, with the team forced to regroup after losing Tylinski, but Crusader keeper Andrew MacPhee put forth three stellar saves before the halftime break to keep his team in the lead.
What had to be the play of the game came in the second half when MacPhee rushed to make a save only to have the ball eke behind him. Fortunately, defenders Michael Walsh and Tafari Burke were paying attention and combined forces in redirecting the ball away from the net, a move Popov called “incredible.”
Though the Whalers would score on an indirect kick in the 28th minute of game play, Cape Tech's defense, which included Walsh and Burke, as well as Pedro Afonso, Oshane Lewis, and Liam Taylor, worked tirelessly to prevent them from the tying goal.
The win boosted the Crusaders into the Div. 4 South semifinals against Atlantis Charter, and while the game didn't go their way, ending in a 5-1 loss, the team left the field at Cohasset High School on Monday with their heads high.
“Hard work is about being together,” Goncalves said. “I'm a good player but I can't do everything by myself. It's good to be with all those guys.”
Israel Campos said he won't soon forget the experience.
“I learned a lot with this team, especially working together,” Campos said. “It was the first time we got this far in the playoffs. It was a big thing for me because I've been playing since freshman year and this was the first time we got this far.”
Campos said he'll especially miss just getting to play with his teammates.
“I'm sure that we're still going to do that sometimes,” he said.
Popov, though disappointed in the loss, remained focused on how far his team has come.
“It was a tough end, but I'm still proud of my team and what they achieved during this season,” he said. “It's huge for us and for the Cape Cod Tech community. It's been an unbelievable season.”