Final four bound
There are positives to getting a playoff bye, and there are negatives.
The No. 2 Hollis Brookline High School boys soccer team experienced the negative early, as No. 7 Con-Val took an early lead in Sunday’s Division II quarterfinal.
But the Cavaliers were able to regroup, scoring twice before halftime, and HB held on for a 3-1 win. And thanks to that bye, the one win puts the Cavs into the semifinals for the third straight year, where they’ll face No. 3 Pembroke, which beat No. 6 Portsmouth 3-1.
“It’s nice to have the bye in the first round, but it’s tough because it’s your first playoff game,” HB coach Rick Carvalho said. “You’re not used to the atmosphere yet. I think that was obvious, when Con-Val came out strong and scored first. We probably weren’t ready for the playoff intensity yet and it took us a few minutes to adjust. Luckily, we were able to adjust.”
Cole Owens had two goals for the Cavs (15-2), including one on a free kick that came from just outside of the box.
That tally tied the game 1-1 with a little more than eight minutes left in the first half, and Nate Rogers scored about six minutes later on a penalty kick to give HB the lead. Jack Barbour had an assist on Owens’ second goal and keeper Michael Pattelena made 10 saves.
Riley Henry scored for Con-Val (11-5-2), which had been outscored 6-0 in two regular-season losses to HB.
“Our goal was to score,” Con-Val coach Scott Daniels said. “We hadn’t scored on them and we wanted to make them play from behind.”
The Cougars did that and they marked Owens with Stephen Twitchell, something they had done the second time they’d played the Cavs.
“The first game against us (Owens) killed us,” Daniels said. “In the second game, we found that marking him, we were able to take him out and make other players beat us. We stuck with that (Sunday) and I thought it was effective.”
It was in the first half. Despite the goal, Owens was held in check as Con-Val was able to keep the pressure on the Cavs forwards. But in the second half, HB was able to create more chances, thanks to the lead and a change in play.
“There was just good pressure all over the field,” Carvalho said. “I thought they handled us well, and with the poor surface, it was hard to get anything going. Their midfield, especially Campbell French, they were able to really take away the midfield. When they did that , we really didn’t have that connection to our strikers.
“We had to start working balls around the outside and get more people involved instead of working more direct. Make them think more and open some space in the middle to eventually capitalize.”
HB had several chances in the second half, but Con-Val goalie Liam McNally was able to keep the Cougars in the game until Owens scored with about three minutes left to make it 3-1.
The Cavs will make it 3 for 3 in semifinal appearances under Carvalho. They’ll face Pembroke at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter.
“It’s something you can’t take for granted, and to accomplish it for three years in a row, with this group, there are seven or eight of them who have been a part of all three, for those guys, it comes down to them,” Carvalho said. “They understand what that next level is. They understand that September and October are great, but what’s November going to be like? We have the experience of being there and we’ll hope to use that and keep working hard.”