SAUGUS — Heartbreaking is just about the only word that comes to mind when trying to describe the Saugus boys soccer team’s double-overtime 2-1 loss to Dracut in Saturday’s Division 3 North first round game at Anna Parker Playground.
A year after going winless in its 2016 campaign, Saugus, led by second-year coach Larry Bolduc, has turned its program around. Not only did the Sachems earn a playoff berth for the first time since 1998 with a 9-5-2 record, but they got the chance to host a first-round game in the Division 3 North tournament. The Sachems gave No. 11 Dracut everything they had, but a well-placed header in front of the net from Dracut’s Jacob Freitas four minutes into the second overtime ended Saugus’ season.
“This is the best I’ve seen them play and I’m so proud,” Bolduc said. “It was non-stop hustle. To get into the tournament for the first time in 20 seasons, then to go to double overtime, we can’t focus on the negative, we had so many positives to look forward to next year.”
Saugus held the lead for most of the game, but it never quite felt safe. From start to finish, Dracut dominated possession and kept the pressure on the Saugus defense. But Sachems goalie Juan Lopez was nothing short of outstanding, turning away just about anything that came close to him.
“Our goalie Juan Lopez had an amazing game. He probably had about 40 saves, that was an incredible performance,” Bolduc said. “Just himself, he saved us about a thousand times. But (the defense) played scrappy and tough, we played unbelievably defensively.”
The Sachems didn’t create many chances on offense, but the shots they took were quality. Saugus’ Jonathan Rodrigues took some of the pressure off Lopez and the defense with about 18 minutes left in the first half. Rodrigues, who has been the Sachems’ most potent goal scorer throughout the season, took the ball up the field and created a 1-on-1 with Middies goalie Colin Sargent. Rodrigues sent a shot to Sargent’s right, burying it in the corner for a 1-0 Sachems lead.
“That was his 26th goal, and he’s one of the best finishers in the box I’ve seen as a high school player,” Bolduc said. “He slipped it by him in the low corner, and it’s something I’ve seen from him before, we were just waiting for him to get going.”
Jhonnata Rodrigues Almeida had a golden opportunity to add to Saugus’ lead with 5:40 to play. He drew Sargent out of the net and then put it by him, but Matthew Robichaud was there to head the ball out. Saugus couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing corner kick.
It wasn’t until the final minute when a scrum ensued in front of Saugus’ net, and Dracut’s Kyle Hould poked the ball through to tie it 1-1.
Saugus held off the Middies through the first 10-minute overtime, but with six minutes to play in the second, Freitas received a pass in front of the Sachems’ net and headed it in from point-blank range to steal the win and advance to the quarterfinals.