Georgetown Royals Boys Soccer '11

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 07:30 PM @ Georgetown
Team 1st 2nd Final
Playoff Game
Sutton 2 1 3
Georgetown 0 1 1

Sutton's strong start sinks Royals

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Friday, November, 18 By Chuck Frye
Staff writer

WORCESTER — The road to the Division 3 state finals was a long one for Georgetown in many ways.

Obviously, the 2 1/2-month march toward a shot of being one of the state's three best soccer programs was grueling. But yesterday's trip to Foley Stadium and a date with Sutton High was daunting on its own. Foul traffic in the Lowell area extended the Royals' trip to Worcester into a two-hour grind, and the team looked a little worse the wear for it.

On the other hand, the Central region titlists had a short jaunt to the pitch and jumped out to an energetic 2-0 lead, keeping Georgetown on its heels for the brunt of the match. The Royals broke through to escape a shutout, and threatened to restore a tight contest in the late stages, but the early deficit was too much to overcome in a 3-1 defeat before over 1,000 frigid fans.

"We're a possession team and they're an aggressive, speed style of team," said Royals head coach Chris DiFranco. "(Last night), their style won."

The Sammies (20-1-2, their second straight one-loss season) wasted little time grabbing control of the contest. Sophomore Riley Steele snagged the rebound of Justin Rothermich's free kick after it bounced off a Royals defender and one-timed it past helpless goalie Ben Warren for the ice-breaker.

And just a few minutes later, after some intense pressure, Rothermich made a beautiful sliding attack at a loose ball about 20 yards from the cage, punching the ball into the upper left corner. In just 10 minutes, Georgetown was in a huge 2-0 hole.

"We've managed to do that all year," said Sutton head coach Michael Elster. "We came out with a lot of energy and that helped at the start."

"I don't think we were ready for that, honestly," said senior striker Matt Bitchell about Sutton's powerful start. "Mentally, I don't think we were ready for the game."

Georgetown (19-2-3) struggled to establish any offensive flow as dribble possessions by Bitchell and fellow striker Chris Birnie were well defended by savvy angle play from sophomore Tim Gaetani and junior Haydn Melia. On two separate occasions, superb hustling tackles by Gaetani stole the ball right off of Bitchell's foot.

"Our defense has been phenomenal all year," Elster said. "They really tightened up (last night).

"I was a defender when I played, and I know how much good defense means. They never come out of our games and that's a lot of pressure. They never get the recognition they deserve, but (last night) they should."

"(Sutton) really packed the middle and it was hard to get quality shots," DiFranco said. "We tried to adapt, but I honestly don't think we really did."

The staunch defense continued into the second half, setting up strong offensive runs by Rothermich and Ryan Elster. Finally, 7 1/2 minutes into the second half, Tom Gilbert sent a solid cross into the box from the right wing. A Georgetown defender slid toward the net to block the pass but instead sent the ball into his own net for a daunting 3-0 deficit.

"The second goal made it a lot harder, but the third goal was a killer," DiFranco said. "Two goals you can come back from, three's very difficult, and as time became a factor, we just kind of knew."

But that didn't dispel the Royals, as they made a statement in the final six minutes of action. Ryan Browner, Bitchell and Andrew Savage forced Sutton keeper Robert Mailea to make diving saves before senior Max Harper broke through.

"I think we finally woke up and wanted to play," said Bitchell, who battled valiantly through a sprained ankle suffered in the state semifinals. "I guess it was just too late."

Off a Royals corner, Harper fielder a deflected shot attempt at the left side of the net and tucked the ball in the open right side.

The flurry continued as Birnie powered a 2-on-1 sprint that drew a controversial offside call while Ben Brock sent in a cross that just missed and Browner drove another challenging laser that Mailea had to dive and punch away. Georgetown looked dejected when the final whistle blew, but had the satisfaction of a strong finish to a one-of-a-kind season to bolster their pride.

"Honestly, I think we've played a lot better teams this year (than Sutton) and, I don't know, we just didn't have it today," said Birnie. "If we played them five times more, I think we'd beat them five times, but it just wasn't our day.

"But I'm not disappointed," Birnie concluded. "I love everyone on this team. We're a family out here, and the accomplishments we've done have created so much Georgetown history. I couldn't be more proud of anyone and we're walking off this field with our heads held high. I hope the younger guys can just look at this and see what Georgetown soccer is all about."

"I told the guys only one team in Division 3 was going to win its last game and we wanted it to be us," DiFranco said. But we made a fantastic run and I'm really proud of our guys. Even down 3-0, we pressed and pressed. We didn't give up."

Game Statistics:

Division 3 State Finals

at Foley Stadium, Worcester

Goals:  G — Max Harper; S — Riley Steele, Justin Rothermich, own goal

Assists:  none

Saves:  G — Ben Warren 7; S — Robert Mailea 8

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