-Submitted on behalf of the BHS Boys Varsity Soccer Team
Weather in New England changes quickly and so does momentum in sports. Fresh off a quarterfinal win on a sunny 75 degree Saturday, the Bedford Bucs boys soccer team faced the Hopkinton Hillers at Doyle Field in Leominster on a cold, snowy Tuesday night with a chance to advance to the MIAA Division 2 state finals. Like the weather, the semifinal matchup saw a massive momentum shift, but the Bucs could not come all the way back, losing a 4-3 heartbreaker to Hopkinton.
The match was relatively even for the first 10 minutes. Bedford possessed the ball slightly more, but could not string together enough passes to mount a serious threat. Hopkinton could not convert a corner at 13 minutes, and neither could Bedford at 15 minutes, and the match remained scoreless. The Hillers took advantage of their only real opportunity of the first half on a well-placed long throw-in that led to a header goal and a 1-0 lead at 19:06. Bedford immediately tried to counter, generating corners at 21 and 24 minutes, but could not gain the equalizer. The teams traded field position for the rest of the half, with the Hillers maintaining their one goal lead at halftime.
In the first five minutes of the 2nd half, Bedford immediately generated pressure, but again could not get off a decent shot thanks to a disciplined Hopkinton defense. At 45 minutes, it turned into set-piece heaven for the Hillers. Hopkinton converted off a free kick at 47:47 to push their lead to 2-0. Less than five minutes later a Hopkinton player fell to the turf, and following the subsequent two minute referee discussion, Bedford was called for a foul and given a yellow card in the 52nd minute leading to another Hiller free kick. An apoplectic Bedford coaching staff asked for an explanation but to no avail. Hopkinton put a good ball on goal, and Bucs goalie Ansh Aggarwal was able to make the initial save, but the rebound went towards the back post and Hopkinton cleaned up to make it 3-0. At this point, it seemed as though the wheels had fallen off the Bucs train, and the season had come to a grinding halt.
However, this Bucs team was not done, and Bedford started to play with a tempo and energy not seen in the first half. They could not convert a corner at 59 minutes, but at 60:16, Spencer Goss got the Bucs on the board via a Miles Herzog assist, narrowing the deficit to 3-1. The Bucs found another gear and started pressing the Hillers into mistakes, regularly possessing the ball, and spending time deep in Hopkinton’s zone. With heavy wet snow starting to fall, Bedford failed to convert another corner at 70 minutes and Hopkinton took a timeout 30 seconds later to regroup. It did not help. Bedford continued to press, and at 71:38, Devan Kaushik collected a loose ball in front of the Hopkinton net, and put a shot off a Hiller defender into the net to cut the lead 3-2. Bedford continued to press the action, but Hopkinton’s defense held and the Hillers countered. They were unable to score, but did generate yet another free kick in the 76th minute, and this one was a beauty. The well-struck shot from 35 yards out hit the upper left corner crossbar, and ricocheted into the goal to give the Hillers a 4-2 lead.
Bedford did not go quietly. Less than two minutes later, after the second of two consecutive corner kicks that Hopkinton was unable to clear, Sean Morrison drilled a shot into the right side of the net, bringing the Bucs back to within a goal, 4-3 with two minutes left to play. Bedford would have one rush left in them, but was unable to score the equalizer.
Anirudh Kumar was awarded the Vince for his assist, and his heart and work ethic. Coach Dave Boschetto commented about the Bucs ability to climb back into the match, “Almost every team (high school, college, professional or otherwise) would have quit down 3-0 or down 4-2 with three minutes left in a tournament game (after a tough foul call). We had only been behind 3 times in the 18 games before this and it would have been understandable if the players just felt that this wasn’t their day. The kids never gave up until the final whistle. It was some combination of character, resilience, commitment, faith in themselves and each other, and the support of teammates and the community. When you have put everything you have into something for years of your life, it builds those characteristics.”
The Bucs finished the season at 14-3-2 and made the State tournament semifinals for the 5th time in the last 42 years (and second trip in the last 3 years). Coming into the season, Boschetto explained, the team had high expectations. “The coaching staff always believed in this team and set high expectations for that reason. We try to focus on the process and judge ourselves by that standard. With a 5th straight league title and a tie for the deepest tournament run in school history, we certainly exceeded the expectations of others.”
Seniors dressing for their last high school soccer game: Ansh Aggarwal, Devan Kaushik, Tomas Ou, Mihir Vaze, Colin Vieira, Luca Melfi, Austin Cullis, Wynn Sheridan, Ian Grove, Connor Lewis, Anirudh Kumar, and Brian Hwang.