By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — WEST NEWBURY — It would be foolish to say that the Pentucket boys soccer team has had a good year. The Sachems have had a great year.
After going 14-2-2 in the regular season, the Sachems earned the top seed in the Division 2 North tournament. They posted tournament wins over Dracut and Salem, and are now preparing to face Concord-Carlisle (13-2-2) in the semifinals tomorrow (3:30 p.m.).
The Sachems have been strong both up front and in the back. Two big parts of that well-balanced approach have been league-leading goal scorer and forward Matt Farrell and goalkeeper Cody Sedler.
Farrell, a senior, didn’t start out a forward. In fact, he’s only been at the position this year.
“I was raised as a left midfielder,” says Farrell. “I played center last year, and this year, (coach) put me at forward.”
Farrell’s coach, Christian Langlois, says that he tried to resist the temptation to move Farrell up front, but the southpaw didn’t make it easy for him.
“He made varsity as a freshman,” says Langlois. “And being left-footed, he fit right in at left-mid and was fantastic there, creating goal-scoring opportunities for himself and other people. This year, he came in and said he wanted to play forward, and I put him up there at the end of the Masconomet game, just hoping we’d get something over the top, get a breakaway. And he missed it by like a foot, and then it just kind of clicked for him.”
The move has clicked for the entire team. Farrell has racked up 21 goals and six assists since making it up front in a 0-0 tie against the state’s top team, Masco, to start the season.
“His speed is his biggest asset,” Langlois says of Farrell. “Once he gets going, he gets faster than any kid I’ve seen, and he also can accelerate from stand-still to top speed and blow by people. So you want a kid like that near the goal.”
Things continued to build for Farrell when he notched a hat trick against Triton two games later, and he’s never looked back, including scoring two goals against Dracut in the tournament’s first round.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Farrell says. “Going into my senior year, I wanted to have a big impact and to feel, when the season was over, that I wanted to be able to look back and have no regrets. I wanted to feel that I had a wonderful time and I couldn’t imagine playing with anyone else. This team has just been a family to me. I love it.”
Anchoring that family is Sedler, who seems to have been born in net. The sophomore has been playing since he was 7 and moved into goal soon after. This season Sedler has only let up nine goals for a 0.67 GAA and is perfect in the tournament so far.
“I was always good in net, so that’s where I stayed,” Sedler states simply. “It’s the aspect of being the last person on the field, and I think that I handle that well. I love seeing the whole field and communicating with the team. I don’t know if I thought that at the age of 12, but it was really fun for me.”
Sedler says that the key to the Sachems’ success this year is their communication and unity. He also gives thanks to his center backs, Ben Craig and Jake Chory, for shutting things down before the ball gets to him. But when it does, he admits to finding the high-pressure moments the most fun.
“That’s when I love playing,” Sedler says of those penalty-kick moments. “Because if you’re not serious the whole time, if you’re not in the game, then when something like that comes up, you won’t be ready. If you’re mentally prepared, that’s all you need.”
“He works year-round on his craft,” Langlois says of his starting keeper. “And it’s such a different skill-set. When you see a keeper who is really a fantastic keeper, he can make it look like it’s easy. To see the way that Cody can get to balls that are going so fast, he can read where people are going with their shots. He can get an early break on it.”
Farrell admits that the upcoming Concord-Carlisle semifinal gives him pause, but if his team plays the way they did in its 4-0 win against Dracut in the first round, it should do well. But, ever the backstop, Sedler has a more gritty opinion.
“I was reading something the other day that said, if you go into something thinking you’re going to lose, you’ve already lost,” says Sedler. “So if we go into that game thinking we’re going to win this, if we play our game and we play like we played against North Andover, Masco and Dracut, we’re going to win.”