By Dan Guttenplan
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Riding a renaissance wave, the 10th-seeded Triton boys soccer team traveled to seventh-seeded Pentucket for their first Division 3 North state tournament appearance in four years. But the tumultuous skies that greeted them would prove an apt backdrop for the Vikes (8-8-3) as they ended their season against the Sachems, 3-0.
“I loved the way we played, I really do,” said Sachems coach Christian Langlois. “Right from the opening kickoff.”
The action began back and forth for the first 10 minutes of play until Will Dwyer nailed a shot past Triton goalie Dalton Tzitzon’s right side that was called back for an offside violation. Undeterred, the Sachems (11-5-3) gained control of the ball and kept it until Connor Beaton broke away with six minutes left in the first half. Beaton juggled the ball amidst a Viking defender, then lost control, regained it and then found Mike Salmonson waiting by Tzitzon’s left side where Salmonson buried with conviction.
Standout Triton forward Jake Papanicolaou would wrestle the ball from the Pentucket midfielders on numerous occasions during the first half, but would be unable to find anyone to feed it to as the rest of his squad were tied up by green and white Sachems.
“The defense across the back was just awesome,” said Langlois. “They gave Papanicolaou nothing to work with. I (told them), ‘Be aware of where he is at all times. Know where he is so that somebody can get there right away. There always needs to be a second guy five yards back because he can turn on you and beat you like that.’ And it worked pretty much throughout the entire game.”
The Sachems began the second half with authority when they scored directly off the kickoff with a header from Will Dwyer. Pentucket kept the pressure going all throughout the second half, once again scoring when Beaton kneed the ball in over Tzitzon’s head, assisted by Brendan Sullivan at the halfway point. Brandon O’Neal nailed a shot off a header in the last 15 minutes but that too was called back due to an offside violation.
“They came to play,” Vikings coach Brad Smith said of the Sachems. “They were bigger, faster, stronger. They won the majority of the 50-50 play and they asserted their play. We looked like the young team, inexperienced and it showed. I think there were some nerve issues and we played to not lose for a while. That ended up coming back to hurt us because they were the aggressor for the majority of the game. Hopefully they will do well in the tournament.”
Though his team’s season ended last night, Smith was happy with the season they had completed and sees places he can build from next year.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” said Smith. “This isn’t a right, you earn this and this group really earned this. We (battled) adversity the whole year. Last year was a tough year, we only had one win, so for these guys to wipe the slate clean and battle through all the adversity that we had and the challenges (was great). It’s a young team and they’re inexperienced but the seniors did a great job of leading. They showed them how to be a team and how to work and how to be a varsity athlete.”
Pentucket will now travel to Victory Field in Watertown on Sunday afternoon to face the second-seeded Red Raiders (14-2-2).
“It’s a tough one,” Langlois said. “They were state finalists last year. I watched them play against Wilmington and they are a very good team. It’s going to be a good test for us. We’re obviously going to have some confidence built up from this, but a lot of guys got to play today too. So, that’s good that I didn’t have to put my starters in for 80 minutes. I’m happy with how we played today.”