DANVERS — The St. Mary’s Spartans came up just short of their state title hopes this weekend, falling to Bromfield, 3-1, in the Division 4 state championship game Saturday night at St. John’s Prep’s Glatz Field.
The Trojans claimed the Division 4 crown for the second straight year, the first under first-year coach Alex Horne.
It was a slow start that was tough to overcome for the Spartans, as the Trojans kept the pressure on the St. Mary’s defense and junior goalie Matthew Gallego, who was tested early and often. He made a diving save on a deflected corner kick six minutes in, but Bromfield capitalized soon after as Nolan Granville found Will Armstrong with a cross in front and Armstrong found the back of the net.
The Bromfield attack refused to let up, as less than a minute later, Jake Catalina won a one-on-one battle with Gallego and made it 2-0 Trojans.
“They were beating us to every ball and they were just a little bit quicker,” St. Mary’s coach Mike D’Agostino said. “I think the nerves got to us, we weren’t playing our kind of soccer.”
The Spartans took a timeout to regroup, and created opportunities on offense. But Bromfield struck again with 21 minutes left in the first half, as Charlie Pappas booted a line-drive straight to the upper corner and past Gallego to give the Trojans a 3-goal advantage.
St. Mary’s found its rhythm as the first half wound down. Gallego kept the damage from getting any worse as he corralled a point-blank shot with four minutes to play in the half. Thiago DeOliveira looked to get the Spartans on the board a minute later as his free kick found its way to the net, but took an unlucky bounce off the goalpost and out through the scrum in front the the net.
The Spartans brought even more energy out of the locker room at halftime, taking their positions on the field with minutes left in the break. That energy paid off less than a minute into the half, as DeOliveira sailed a gorgeous free kick over the head of Fitzsimmons to cut into the lead, 3-1.
“Thiago’s goal was beautiful,” D’Agostino said. “We found some of the things we needed to work on. We told them they needed to step up and win 50-50 balls, go to the balls in the air. We started to do that in the second half. We brought the energy we needed to.”
Though they outshot the Trojans in the second half, the Spartans couldn’t find a way to get another by Fitzsimmons and the Bromfield defense. Gallego made a few huge saves on the other end, including a tip over the crossbar.
“Matt stepped up and filled in a role that no one really expected,” D’Agostino said of his goalie. “Definitely the unsung hero for stepping up and coming to play out of nowhere.”
However, the Spartans would have to settle for one goal and a state championship runner-up trophy. It’s another trophy on the shelf for a senior group that has been to two state title games, won two Division 4 North titles and two Eastern Mass. titles.
“Olu (George), Thiago, (Matt) Connolly and more, they helped build this program and it’s been thriving,” D’Agostino said of his senior group, 10 players in all. “There are a lot of underclassmen stepping up, too. Richie (LeBrun), a freshman, played every game at left fullback. Matt Gallego, Kevin Perez, Jackson Nickolau…these are names you’re going to see in the future for St. Mary’s, and they’re going to build the program stronger and stronger.”