Defense Reigns Supreme for Boys Soccer

Walpole+goalie+saves+shot.+

Walpole goalie saves shot.

Matt Brownsword

 

Walpole goalie saves shot.
Walpole goalie saves shot.

 

 

There’s a proven fact in sports: if the other team doesn’t score, they can’t win.

“Something to nothing, that’s been our motto all season,” said Coach Lee Delaney.

Rebels soccer has always taken pride in winning — like all sports — but when the winning isn’t there, the Rebels have fallen back on defense and its continual, unwavering conviction to not give up a goal.

After regulation time ended in Nauset, winning was hardly an option for the Rebels. The Nauset midfield had taken over the beaten-up, slick field, pounding the ball into the Rebels’ defensive third again and again, only to be reset after a clearance. Senior forwards AJ Chauvin, Bob Rabaioli and CJ Weinacht were isolated up top, unable to create much offensively and relieve the pressure on the defense.

“We put them under pressure, we put them under pressure, but they just didn’t buckle” said Nauset coach John McCully to the Cape Cod Times.

Time after time, the Rebels back line had an answer: senior Captain Colin Murray, sophomore Nick Randall, junior Tommy Helm, junior Chris Gallivan, and senior Captain Matt Brownsword dealt with the consistent Nauset attack all night. Nauset only had two clear-cut chances — off of a rebound and an open header — but ACL MVP WIlly Boyd could not put either shot on target. Other than that, the Warriors managed only two other shots — and none on target after the first half. Boyd was kept quiet by Murray and Randall all night, Gallivan took care of Nauset midfielder Kenny Keyes in the air and Brownsword and Helm kept Nauset’s other star — midfielder Junior Chambers — off the ball.

“Coming into the playoffs, we still didn’t have a lineup,” said Coach Delaney. “Did we want [Brownsword] or [Murray] at sweeper? Who would play outside back? Where would Gallivan play?”

Despite all the questions, the Rebels seem to have found an answer: after only managing only three shutouts in the regular season, Walpole’s back line has not given up a goal thus far — other than PK’s, in which Nauset only scored on 1 out of their four chances — and hardly any shots. Greater New Bedford, Walpole’s first opponent, did not manage a dangerous — never mind on-target — chance. Two MVPs of their respective leagues, Boyd and GNB midfielder Helio Viera, have been silenced by the combination of the five defensive players.

The three underclassman have flourished in their new roles, after the lineup was set in practices leading up to the opening round game. After stalwart sophomore Ian Fair went out with an oblique injury, Randall filled in — having played zero games for varsity at defense — and has been debatably the Rebels’ MVP in the playoffs. Helm, after his standout play in the second half of a 3-2 loss to Natick, has moved around the defense — playing just about every position but sweeper — before settling in at left back.

However, the most important player for the Rebels has probably been the 6 foot 6 Gallivan, the primary ball winner for the Rebels’ back line. Interchanging between center defensive midfield and stopper with Brownsword, Gallivan follows the ball around the field, sprinting up and down for both defensive and offensive restarts. At one point during the season, Gallivan lead the Rebels in scoring despite managing all of his goals on offensive restarts.

“The Dedham game, he just decided he’d win every head ball,” said Delaney. So he did: in a close game that was paramount for the Rebels to even qualify for the tournament, Gallivan took over the aerial game, leading the Rebels to a pivotal 2-1 win.

Murray and Brownsword have played just about every position for the Rebels this year after being the two starting outside backs in the previous year. Murray has dominated the sweeper position in the playoffs and Brownsword has settled in as the secondary ball winner behind Gallivan, closing out the back line.

“This isn’t even the best back line, I’ve ever played with,” said Murray. “Not even close.”

In the first two years of Murray’s career, Boys Soccer let up less than a goal a game — lead by perennial all-stars Alex Sarkis, Nolan Murray, Matt Lavanchy, and Alan Garry — and this year’s version has struggled to give up less than two goals a game in spurts this year.

However, in 180 minutes of postseason soccer, the boys have yet to give up a goal, in true Rebels fashion — winning games by out working and grinding out the other team until they buckle.

Something to nothing: if the other team does not score, they can not win. Except in the tournament, when there are no ties, and PKs can decide the winner of a scoreless matchup. But the Rebels have a pretty good record with those.