HARVARD -- On a day where his 550th career soccer coaching win was celebrated, Tom Hill was pretty upbeat after walking away with a tie. Propped up on crutches due to a broken leg, Hill was pleased with the effort Bromfield boys soccer put forth on their first ever homecoming weekend. The Trojans bounced back from a sluggish first half to find the equalizer in the 60th minute to earn a 1-1 draw against red-hot Groton-Dunstable on a damp and blustery Saturday afternoon.
"I thought defensively, we did an outstanding job of being in the right spots and not getting beat to the ball," said Hill. "We used a lot of kids, and our depth was a key factor today. Our team doesn't have a lot of superstars like theirs, so we needed a complete team effort and we got it. There are things we can do better, but to come away with a point against the best team on our schedule is a good showing."
On the other side, Crusaders coach Sean Wiseby knew it would be a challenge to take on a team honoring their longtime coach on Homecoming Day.
"We knew this atmosphere would be tough with all of the celebration, and I can't say I am disappointed with the outcome," said Wiseby. "This was our third game in five days, and I thought we looked a little tired out there. With the rain, wind and field conditions, it was a tough day out there, but we did a lot of good things and I feel like it isn't a bad thing that we got tested."
The key on the day was the Bromfield defense, which did a great job holding one of, if not the best, offenses in Central Massachusetts in check. The Trojans were led by goalkeeper Ryan Kennedy, who made 10 saves along with a countless crew of others who held Groton-Dunstable, scorers of 39 goals in their last six games, to just a single tally.
"Ryan played a very aggressive game in net today and did a nice job of cutting down angles," said Hill. "Our entire defense did a nice job of forcing long shots. I thought Ben L'Ecuyer was all over the place today. Matt Olejarz played a gutty game despite being injured. Whoever we put back there did their job, which is what we need in order to be successful."
After a quiet first 25 minutes, the Crusaders picked up the pressure and started putting together chances. Doug Rosa sent a great touch pass down the left side to a hustling Dan McGuiness, who slipped a shot just wide of the right post. Two minutes later, McGuiness sent a pass into the middle of the box to Rosa, who lined a shot towards the right post that was saved by Kennedy.
Eventually though, Groton-Dunstable did find their way into the scoring column at the 38:00 mark. Matt Tornaritis took a pass from McGuiness and made a 30-yard run past a slew of Bromfield defenders on his way into the box. Kennedy came out to try to make a play, but Tornaritis slipped by him and put home a shot into an open net to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission.
Through the first 40 minutes, Groton-Dunstable had the upper hand, holding a 12-3 advantage in shots on target while controlling the flow of play.
"We really did a nice job early on getting shots on goal, but we left a lot of good chances on the field," said Wiseby. "Our passing early on was spot on, but we just couldn't break through until Matt made his great run. I thought we really should have been up two or three after 40 minutes, but we couldn't capitalize on the chances presented."
As the driving rain came in, the momentum seemed to swing as the Trojans became the more aggressive of the two teams. Just three minutes into the second half, Dylan Osgood had a chance go by the boards when he put a free kick from 20 yards over the cross bar.
Bromfield kept coming and coming until they finally tied the game in the 60th minute. Eric McAlpine made a quick run before sending a ball towards the middle of the box from the right side. Osgood was there to rise above the crowd and head a shot just inside the left post to make it 1-1 with 20 minutes to go.
As the field conditions worsened after a period of rain, the offensive opportunities became fewer and farther between. Both Kennedy and Crusaders goalkeeper Jamie Bailey had one save over the last fourth of the game as neither team really threatened for a game-winner. The final whistle blew and the 2012 edition of the long-running rivalry ended in a 1-1 tie.
"We played a very smart game today, which is something we are working on," said Hill. "The kids overcame a slow start and really improved as the game wore on. When you enter a game as the underdog, you need to play a solid game to have a shot and today we did that."
For Wiseby, the game will be used as a lesson to carry over the remainder of the season.
"We had been on a great run and some adversity isn't the worst thing for this team," said Wiseby. "I feel like Bromfield played well enough to beat us today and that a point is a nice bonus for us. It was hard fought and had a bit of post-season feel, which is a good thing to have in the middle of the season."