Maplewood disappointed by draw against Newbury

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Michael Stamm of Maplewood plays the ball to a teammate as Noah Wilson of Newbury races to catch up in a 2-2 draw Wednesday evening at Maplewood.

MECCA — Ten days ago, it appeared as if the Maplewood boys soccer team had played itself out of a chance to win the Northeastern Athletic Conference championship. Good fortune brought the Rockets back into the race and, as coach Matthew Britton reminded them prior to a regular season-ending battle with Newbury on Wednesday evening, a share of the title was there for the taking. They just had to win.

The Black Knights grounded the Rockets, however, with a late goal forcing a 2-2 draw at Maplewood, leaving Lordstown as league champion.

“It’s very disappointing,” Britton said. “It was a very disappointing performance, especially because we know we can play better. You can tell that by their reaction. They’re distraught. We’ve got another title to defend, yet, and we’ll get after defending that one.

“It’s disappointing to know it’s right there for you and you can reach out … It hurts to be close, yet so far away.”

Newbury (11-3-1, 10-2-1), eliminated from the NAC race earlier in the week, still had a say in who claimed the crown.

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Jarrett Mitchell of Maplewood tries to dribble through Newbury defenders Kevin Piczer and Maggie Kolenic during a 2-2 draw Wednesday evening at Maplewood.

“I guess (it’s poetic justice),” Newbury coach Robert Fitz said. “But we don’t think that way. We go out and try try to win every match. It was disappointing losing to Lordstown, especially after today’s result. We go out to win every match. We prepare specifically for every game.”

Tino Johnson notched the tying goal with 5:12 left in the match after a free kick from Mario Puletti bounced its way across the face of the goal.

“In the second half, the ball was in our half of the field the whole time,” Britton said. “We were completely dominant in the second half. We just didn’t make good on enough of our opportunities. We fell asleep there for half a second and that’s all it takes.”

“You only get so many opportunities during the course of the match,” Fitz said. “We probably only had three or four shots on goal. We were efficient. We put two in and had a chance at a decent result.”

From there, the Black Knights played to preserve the draw.

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Evan Hunter (left) of Maplewood and Kevin Piczer of Newbury race to the ball in a 2-2 draw on Wednesday evening at Maplewood.

“We were prepared for this,” Fitz said. “We were short our leading scorer. We wanted to play a counter attacking style and get an extra man back on defense. (Maplewood) is a good team and they score a lot of goals. We had to take our chances, move the ball wide and let the talent up front move the ball forward.”

“It was going to be a tie (after they scored to knot it up),” Britton said. “Their coach said out loud they were playing for the tie. It came directly from their coach’s mouth. It was like a punch to the gut and all our wind was knocked out.”

Tommy Rink’s free kick from just outside the 18 was saved by Newbury goalkeeper Alex Piczer with four seconds left.

The Rockets (13-1-2, 11-1-2) took the lead, 2-1, when Rink took a pass, flicked it toward the goal with his head, then ran it down and knocked it home with 16:17 to play.

Newbury drew first blood on Jonah Hamby’s goal in the fifth minute.

Rink knocked home the equalizer off Thomas Dorsey’s feed just more than two minutes later and the score was knotted, 1-1, with 32:59 remaining in the first half.

“That one was important,” Britton said. “We started the game very slowly. We came out of the blocks sloppy. We made a poor effort at the start and we conceded (a goal) not even five minutes in. It took us less than three to answer back. Them scoring early woke us up and gave us a foothold in the game.”

Britton and the Rockets now have to move on emotionally and go to work defending the Division III district championship they won a season ago.

“They’re a resilient group,” Britton said. “We’ll be back and ready to go. Maybe I’ll have to put my psychology degree to the test. We’ll get back out on the practice field and work out the kinks. All it takes is getting back into our rhythm.”