One step further, but same result for Sutton boys
The Sutton boys soccer team benefits from the toughness of its schedule, in making a tournament run almost every year.
By CHRISTOPHER TREMBLAY, Staff Sports Writer
Last fall the Sutton boys soccer team earned themselves a number five seed in the Division 5 State Tournament and went on to defeat Atlantis Charter, Oxford and Hopedale before running into the number one seed Bromfield in the Final Four. Unfortunately, Bromfield took out the Sammies and went on to capture the State Title.
This year Sutton once again posted an impressive 10-3-4 regular season record and was awarded the number two seed of the tournament. Sutton then posted four straight shutouts against Atlantis Charter (2-0), Hopedale (7-0), Holbrook (2-0) and Douglas (1-0 in double overtime) to advance into the Division 5 State Tournament Final. Advancing one step further than the previous season, Sutton would once again have to square off against Bromfield for the championship. Despite outscoring their first four opponents 12-0, the Sammies found themselves up against a tough Bromfield team, which was the number one seed coming into the tournament. And although the Sammies were playing stellar defense, much like the year before Sutton fell 3-0 to the now back-to-back champions.
“Coming into this season we lost our starting defensive line, all four defenders graduated,” Sutton Coach Mike Elster said. “We always set high expectations, but with a guarded optimism. We expected to exceed, but I’m not sure that we thought that we’d get to do what we accomplished this season.”
In the recent past Sutton has captured four straight State Championships (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014) in addition to its fair share of Dual Valley Conference titles. Elster attributes the team’s overwhelming success to the tough schedule that they put together year in and year out.
“We have a good history of being a top-notch contender, one of the higher Division teams,” he said. “We play a number of Division 1 teams for our out of conference games; big, strong opponents that we generally play close. I’d say we’re in the top three of Division 5 teams in terms of strength of schedule.”
Sutton took the next step and although the Sammies were not able to capitalize on it Elster was rather proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“Following the loss, the kids were sad, but I was quite proud of this team. Each of the seniors stepped up and told the rest of the team how much this meant to the program,” the coach said. “That there, is a telling sign of program strength and I was extremely happy with the situation.”
Although the Sammies were without their entire defensive line from a year earlier, Sutton still was able to put the ball in the net on a regular basis while keeping its opposition at bay. Leading the way for Sutton’s run to the Championship Final were the team’s three senior captains, all Central Mass All-Stars.
Keeper Connor Mulderig, a very important piece between the pipes for Sutton, kept the Sammies in each and every game this year. Ben Venuti was converted to a forward this year and although it took a bit of time, he eventually go used to his new position and was able to score a large portions of Sutton’s goals. Third and not least, mid defender Justin Cao was a talented individual who could read the game and make the necessary adjustments to stop the opposition’s attack.
In addition to the three captains leaving the team Sutton will also be saying goodbye to another four seniors, all who played contributing factors in the team reaching the State Finals. Although seven graduating seniors is a decent amount for a small school such as Sutton’s, Coach Elster has a good amount of athletes who will be returning to the team next season. Sutton will return eight juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen from this year’s squad.
With a decent number of returners coming back next year to make another run at the title, the Sammies will be without their solid goalie from this year’s run.
“Our biggest loss is going to be our goalie situation. We really didn’t have a back-up goalie this year so if anything had happened to Connor then we would have had to gone to a field position athlete to fill in,” Elster said. “Next year I believe that we will have a freshman coming out for the team that could possibly take over the position. He’s young but he may be the only one, we’ll have to wait and see.”
As Elster previously noted, he is a firm believer in playing a strong schedule as it prepares you for the playoffs and although his team will be on the younger side next fall he still wants the athletic director to schedule those top teams during the regular season so that the players can take their game to the next level.
“We’re a good enough team and always strive to earn a high seed in the tournament; hopefully, we will once again at least make it to the final four if not further,” the Sammies coach said. “Once you get to the tournament anything can happen at that point. I expect to be one of the favorites next year.”
One step at a time; if that progression continues for Sutton next fall the Sammies could be the Division 5 State Champion.