LYNN— Thursday evening’s Division 4 North semifinal between No. 3 Burke and No. 2 St. Mary’s was a rematch one year in the making. This time around, the Spartans were ready for it.
It only took one goal but the Spartans defeated the Bulldogs 1-0 at Manning Field to advance to the sectional final. St. Mary’s watched its season end last fall with a tournament loss to Burke in the quarterfinal round and the Spartans were eager to right the ship.
“At the beginning of the game we talked about that,” Spartans coach Mike D’Agostino said. “We talked about last year’s game that went to PK’s. They’re a good team. Their keeper’s only a junior. They have a talented team again this year. Our seniors definitely stepped up. Our players came up huge tonight.”
Spartans senior midfielder Thiago DeOliveira scored the lone goal on a penalty kick in the early stages of the first half. Senior forward Olu George drew the penalty to set up the eventual game-winner.
“Olu taking the ball to the net, the kid took him down and Thiago finishes those PK’s when he needs to,” D’Agostino said. “He did a great job.”
Junior goalie Matt Gallego, stepping into the starting role for the first time this season, made eight saves for the shutout win.
“Matt did an amazing job tonight,” D’Agostino said. “First shutout of the year for him and that’s huge. He had about eight saves. We had a little luck on our side also but he did a great job with leadership from Joey (Thongsythavong) and Nolan (Perez). They kept the momentum in the middle for us and that was huge.”
After 16 minutes of scoreless play, the Spartans earned themselves a golden opportunity when George was taken down by Burke defender. DeOliveira, who takes the bulk of St. Mary’s penalty kicks, fired the shot past the dive of Burke’s goalie and gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead with 23:25 remaining in the first half.
That’s where it stayed at halftime and the Spartans went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Chasing a goal, the Bulldogs were forced to amp up their attack in the second half. For a stretch of the second half they tested Spartans goalie Gallego but the netminder stood tall.
St. Mary’s (18-2-2) went defensive for the final minutes of the second half to keep Burke away from the net. D’Agostino’s decision worked and the Spartans walked away with a 1-0 win.
“We kept the same momentum, same style,” D’Agostino said. “We tried to flush them toward the outside and then the last 10-15 minutes we went a little bit more defensively. I think they wanted to step back a little bit more but it kept us going. We did a good job keeping the ball out of their end.”
St. Mary’s will clash against No. 1 Mystic Valley in the sectional final Sunday afternoon (4) at Manning Field.
Mystic Valley defeated No. 12 New Mission, 2-1, in the semifinal round Thursday night. The Eagles also took down Lynn Tech, 2-0, in the quarterfinal round earlier this week. Mystic Valley is 17-2-1 this season.
“We’ll keep moving forward,” D’Agostino said. “Our motto is to keep moving forward. We have a talented group of kids with 10 seniors and the rest of the juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We’ll keep the momentum moving forward.”