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One goal enough to eliminate Pembroke boys’ soccer team in semifinals

  • Hollis Brookline keeper Michael Pattelena looks for the ball as Pembroke's Austin Sartwell reacts to missing an open net during the second half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal.

    Hollis Brookline keeper Michael Pattelena looks for the ball as Pembroke's Austin Sartwell reacts to missing an open net during the second half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal.

  • Pembroke's Dylan Banks keeps the ball away from Hollis Brookline's Cole Owens during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on to win 1-0.

    Pembroke's Dylan Banks keeps the ball away from Hollis Brookline's Cole Owens during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on to win 1-0.

  • Pembroke's Spencer Nowe and Hollis Brookline's Evan Porter, back, watch as HB's Nate Rogers falls into Pembroke's Austin Sartwell during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on for a 1-0 win.

    Pembroke's Spencer Nowe and Hollis Brookline's Evan Porter, back, watch as HB's Nate Rogers falls into Pembroke's Austin Sartwell during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on for a 1-0 win.

  • Hollis Brookline keeper Michael Pattelena looks for the ball as Pembroke's Austin Sartwell reacts to missing an open net during the second half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal.
  • Pembroke's Dylan Banks keeps the ball away from Hollis Brookline's Cole Owens during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on to win 1-0.
  • Pembroke's Spencer Nowe and Hollis Brookline's Evan Porter, back, watch as HB's Nate Rogers falls into Pembroke's Austin Sartwell during the first half of Thursday's Division II boys soccer semifinal. HB held on for a 1-0 win.

EXETER – The Pembroke boys’ soccer team had a game plan and stuck to it for two-thirds of yesterday’s Division II semifinal against No. 2-ranked Hollis-Brookline. The No. 3 Spartans had a large share of possession, were keeping the Cavaliers’ top attacker quiet and were generating multiple scoring chances.

As the clock ticked toward the latter stages of the second half, it was looking more and more like any ball that found the net would be a winner, and that proved to be the case at Exeter High yesterday, with the Cavaliers (16-2) scoring a headed goal in the 65th minute for a 1-0 victory that secured a spot in the final against No. 1 Windham (16-2) on Sunday.

The loss may sting Pembroke for some time, as the Spartans (15-3-1) had the better of the play for much of the second half leading up to the Hollis goal. After an initial flurry of chances in the first five-plus minutes of that half, the game settled down somewhat, but Pembroke still looked more likely to score and had some close chances just minutes before the Cavaliers went ahead.

“We were doing what we wanted (in the second half),” Spartans Coach Peter Bisson said. “We came out attacking and playing good defense.”

Sometimes a team has to simply tip its hat to its opponent for scoring a nice goal.

“There wasn’t a mistake from us,” Bisson said concerning the goal. “It was a good goal.”

The winner came via a cross from an open Jack Barbour on the right wing. The cross passed over the waiting head of top Hollis forward Cole Owens in the middle and looked like it might not make a connection, but Johnny O’Neil made a streaking run down the left side and was open enough to launch into a diving header that sped into the net.

The cross and the header for the goal were both top-notch, but a key element in the play that may be easy to overlook was the presence of Owens in the center. Owens, who had some success offensively against the Spartans in the regular-season meeting between the two teams, was clearly a focal point for Pembroke defensively. The Spartans had done an excellent job containing Owens through much of the game, as the forward often found himself isolated and closely marked by the Pembroke back line, but in the case of the goal, it was Owens going for the cross in the middle of the box that drew all the attention. O’Neil had the freedom to run onto the cross with multiple defenders around Owens, which proved to be a decisive part of the play.

“(Owens) scored on us during the regular season,” Bisson said. “We made sure to be aware of him.”

The goal was the obvious turning point in the game, and both teams made instant adjustments. The Spartans, who normally play with one of Aaron Locke or Justus Turk as the forward up top, took off a midfielder to try and push for a late equalizer, but Pembroke struggled a bit with the altered formation. It’s been a rare occasion this season that Pembroke has had to make a late comeback attempt, and that lack of familiarity hurt the team in the final 10 minutes.

“We tried to throw more offense on,” Bisson said. “We haven’t been in that situation often, so we had trouble with spacing. We were playing too compact.”

Further complicating matters were the tactics of Hollis, which left Owens up top but put the other nine outfield players behind the ball to essentially sit on the 1-0 lead. Pembroke struggled to deal with the extra defenders, and in fact it was Hollis creating late chances over the final five minutes.

One goal from the Cavaliers shouldn’t diminish the hard work of a Pembroke team that was playing a strong game up until the deflating score from its opponent. Offensively, Austin Sartwell was all over the field, floating between the forward, midfield and wide positions and getting off a lot of shots. He had multiple good headers off of corner kicks in the first half and wasn’t afraid to take a shot from long range.

“We use (Sartwell) everywhere,” Bisson said. “He’s our target man, works hard and is always dangerous.”

The whole Spartans midfield put in a good shift, with wingers Parker Heath and Jeremy Caruso always looking to get forward, and the central midfield duo of Brendon Pettigrew and Spencer Nowe keeping possession for the team. Pettigrew was particularly clever with his ball control and started to orchestrate offensive play in the second half.

On the defensive side of play, Josh Payeur was the obvious last line of defense and made a number of key tackles and interceptions, especially on Owens, who had a few breakaway chances that were effectively snuffed out by Payeur.

“(Payeur) has been solid all year,” Bisson said. “He’s talkative with the other defenders and a rock back there.”

The Spartans have nine seniors on the team, and all nine play starting roles, so the aforementioned players, along with defender Dylan Banks, midfielder Andrew Goulet, and goalie Alex Trujillo, will be missed. Pembroke will try to rebuild next year with a core of eight juniors who played this season.

In the end, it was one great play from Hollis-Brookline that decided the game and ended Pembroke’s playoff run, but the scoreline won’t overshadow a solid effort from the team yesterday and a great season.

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