Westport magical season ends in semifinals loss to Douglas, 3-0
Tears began to flow from the eyes of Westport players as the referee’s whistle blew to end the Wildcats magical season when they lost to Douglas, 3-0, in the semifinals at Walpole High School …
Westport magical season ends in semifinals loss to Douglas, 3-0
Tears began to flow from the eyes of Westport players as the referee’s whistle blew to end the Wildcats magical season when they lost to Douglas, 3-0, in the semifinals at Walpole High School on Wednesday night.
“You should be extremely proud of what you have done this season,” Westport head coach Chris Parker said to his team following the loss. “It’s historic in Westport athletics. What I’m so excited about is that you guys have set the stage for more incredible things to come from this program.” He paused and took a moment as his eyes began to swell, “Your mark will go beyond tonight. Your legacy will go beyond tonight. I love you guys for that.”
The close knit team gathered for the last time to recite their pitch warrior creed, “Our mind is set for purpose. My body is ready for challenge. My spirit is primed to sacrifice so that my teammates claim success. I am a pitch warrior.”
A creed that brought them from running sprints on Horseneck beach on warm summer mornings to one game from gaining the finals on a brisk fall evening, in a 43 team Division 5 bracket.
“I love these kids,” said co-captain Dom Vitorino. “I spent 16 weeks with them and I enjoyed every single day, every single hour, every single minute. They are my brothers. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Westport had their hands full in the first half
The Walpole facility was vast. A large turf field stadium with stands on both sides. The Wildcats had their hands full with a three seeded Douglas team that was tall, fast, coached well and played with exceptional skill.
“They are a great team,” said co-captain Nick Arruda. “Douglas has pieces, a really good striker. We played strong. We played as tough as we could.”
The Douglas midfielders and offensive attack kept the pressure on Westport’s defense through most of the first half. Wildcats center backs, Dom Vitorino, John Letendre, outside backs, Nick DosVais, Ryan Borges, and goalkeeper, Noah Amaral, combatted the attack by playing stellar defensive as they have done all through out the playoffs.
“They weren’t overly big like Millis,” said Coach Parker, “but boy, they were technical and well coached. So, it was another scenario where we had to just dig in and let the game settle.”
In their pregame conversation, Coach Parker spoke to the team about minimizing the Tigers scoring opportunities in dangerous areas. “We did a very good job of that in the first half,” said Coach Parker. “Douglas controlled play and possession…, but they didn’t get a whole lot of good opportunities to score.”
The game scenario played out perfectly for the Wildcats. The Tigers managed to put just five shots on goal in the first half. Amaral, a freshman, saved them all. The Douglas offensive attack was less dominating in the second half. They weren’t connecting on their passes, the Tigers were putting balls into the air and the game had suddenly opened up.
“The game switched. We were able to be more opportunistic,” Coach Parker said. “We began to make some runs, get some attacking opportunities and get some corner kicks.”
Douglas had Westport junior striker Hunter Brodeur tripled covered the entire first half. Brodeur who scored 35 goals this season has a lofty resume and the Tigers had done their homework.
“I think they saw some film on Hunter and saw his stats,” said co-captain John Letendre. “He had three guys on him all game. It’s tough going three on one. It’s damn near impossible.”
Still Brodeur managed to fight for a couple of scoring opportunities in the second half.
The first came after Tigers midfielder Aidan Ferguson took down Nick Arruda as he dribbled the ball into the Douglas field of play. Westport players lined up 15 yards from the goal as Letendre lined up to take a direct kick. The senior lofted a beautiful kick into the middle of the box. Brodeur and Dom Vitorino leaped up to challenge Tigers goalkeeper Gavin Gualteiri, dressed all in black like a ninja. The ball fell through the goalkeepers hands and the two players heads, right to the ground. Gualteiri collapsed and tipped the ball out towards the field. Vitorino quickly stopped it and kicked the ball with his heal, back towards the goal. It hit the goalkeeper. Brodeur kicked it with his right foot, but Gualtieri made yet another save, this time with his legs as he turned his head to avoid being kicked in the teeth by Brodeur. With the ball still loose, the referee standing out by Letendre on the 30 yard mark blew his whistle ending the play. Westport players held up their hands in disbelief.
The Westport offense kept up the pressure and forced a corner kick. Junior Antonio Dutra Africano playing left outside midfielder, lofted a kick into the middle of the box. Players from both teams vied for the ball. It bounced off a few heads fell to the turf and rolled out towards the 18 yard mark. Brodeur broke from the scrum, gathered it, wheeled and kicked a left footed shot towards the goal. Gualtieri reached out towards his right and made the save, ending the threat.
Ferguson scored two in Douglas scoring stretch
Douglas rebounded and forced a corner kick minutes later. As Westport lined up for assignments in the box, Tigers midfielder Owen Gray instead of kicking the ball, shuffled a stealthy pass to teammate Aidan Ferguson. Ferguson dribbled into the box and looked to shoot. Wildcats midfielder Coltrane McGonigle eyed the play from the middle of the box, panicked and sped over to thwart the Ferguson. McGonigle slid at the ball to kick it out of bounds and mistakingly took down Ferguson. The referee on top of the play, quickly called McGonigle for an infraction and awarded Ferguson a penalty kick. The midfielder placed a beautiful kick by Amaral into the left corner of the goal to give Douglas a 1-0 lead at the 68:45 minute mark.
“It was a mental break down,” said Coach Parker. “Granted, those starters were out there most of the night and sometimes you do have a mental lapse. And that’s exactly what it was. We spoke about how it can take one mental mistake in a game like this, where it could be the difference maker. We saw them run three different plays off their corner kicks. So we were aware of them.”
Coach Parker also spoke about McGonigle. “Coltrane shouldn’t be beating himself up. The ball never should have made it to the box. We should have been able to control it like we did beautifully in the first half. Once the kid gets that deep, you are doing the best that you can to prevent him from getting something off his feet.”
With under 12 minutes to play, Coach Parker adjusted the Wildcats lineup to give Broduer more help up front. Douglas quickly capitalized. Five minutes later, Tigers midfielder Michael O'Toole intercepted a DosVais pass and sent Gray in alone on Amaral. The goalkeeper charged, but Gray booted a shot by him on the short side to give Douglas a 2-0 lead.
Douglas scored their third goal on a beautiful direct kick by Ferguson with 5:16 to play. Standing near the Tigers bench on the 30 yard line, Ferguson lofted a bomb over the wall and the outstretched arms of Amaral under the cross bar and into the net to give Douglas a 3-0 lead.
When the final whistle blew, the teary senior captains found each other and hugged. McGonigle fell to the ground his face in his hands. Dutra Africano put a hand on his back. Coach Parker gave him a hug.
“I am so proud of them,” said Coach Parker. “They are a great group of guys. I love them to death. They are just wonderful, wonderful young men. We worked very hard the last five years to try to build this program up and I believe that we accomplished that. And I believe that there is more to come. This is not the pinnacle for us. I think that we can turn out a highly competitive team year in and year out. Make the tournament every year. And once you’re in, you try to make a run.”
“I’m going to be back next year,” echoed Vitorino a senior. “I’ll be watching though. I’m going to be watching these kids cause I know that they are something special. And I really think that Westport is going to go the distance next year. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
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