RULERS OF THE NORTH
Watertown boys' soccer team defeats Melrose for sectional title; Raiders to play Norwell on Wednesday in state semifinals
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Revenge is sweet.
The Watertown High boys’ soccer team outlasted rival Melrose, 2-0, on Sunday night at Manning Field in Lynn to win the MIAA Division 3 North championship for the first time since 2013.
The fifth-seeded Raiders improved to 15-6-1 on the year, and advanced to the state semifinals against Norwell (18-2-2), which was the No. 2 seed in the South. The teams will play Wednesday at 5 p.m. back at Manning Field.
Earlier in the season, Watertown lost to Melrose, 3-0, costing the team the Middlesex League championship. However, WHS buckled down in the playoffs and would not be bested for a second time in a row.
“We knew it was gonna be a battle, because we see [Melrose] twice every year,” said Watertown coach Frank Cacia after the victory. “They did a good job in winning the Middlesex League, but we told our boys today that we weren’t going to lose two titles to them. It just wasn’t gonna happen.”
The teams were certainly evenly matched, as they played nearly 60 minutes of scoreless soccer to begin the game. However, Watertown seemed to have the advantage, peppering a number of shots on goal and having many more scoring opportunities. Melrose goalkeeper Jared Dowell was put to the test in both halves, needing to make several saves to keep the game scoreless.
Coming off a huge upset against top-seeded Wayland on Wednesday, Nov. 8, Watertown had all the confidence in the world against Melrose. Yet the Raiders didn’t let it go to their heads, using their momentum wisely to pull off the victory.
Everyone knew the Raiders were going to break through eventually. It was only a matter of time. The tension in the stands and on the sidelines was palpable.
Sure enough, sophomore midfielder Sammy Deossa received a pass at the 18-yard line, and led Akif Yagcioglu out wide around the Melrose keeper. Yagcioglu took two touches and slotted home the eventual game-winning goal behind Dowell in the 58th minute, to the roars of the Watertown crowd.
“We played great,” said Yagcioglu about the game as a whole. “It just feels good to win, you know? We’re the best team in the state.”
Yagcioglu has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, previously referring to himself as “the best player ever.” Although he may talk a lot off the field, nobody can deny that he delivers on the field.
From then on, Melrose kicked up the intensity, putting the pressure on the Watertown defense, which was led by senior captain Alex Abrahamyan. The defense greatly limited the opportunities of the Melrose strikers by booting the ball away any time it came near enough to threaten. Melrose was at the point of desperation, constantly being frustrated by the defense and unable to put together a sustained attack.
Senior goalkeeper Sergio Salas was kept mostly protected and was only forced to counter a few shots.
“These seniors are just special human beings and incredible leaders,” added Cacia. “It means so much to them to win this. They work so hard in the summer for this, and hard work pays off.”
With one minute remaining in the game, junior striker Alex Egan secured the victory when he broke through a scrum in front of the Melrose net to tally a goal to put the Raiders up by two.
The Raiders’ work isn’t done. They will have two days to rest up and recover for the tough test of Norwell. Hopefully they will get the chance to prove, as Yagcioglu says, that they are the best soccer team Massachusetts has to offer.
–Nov. 12, 2017–
Nathan Follett is a longtime member of the Raider Times staff. Beginning in September 2018, he is serving as Sports Editor.