WORCESTER -- One thing is for certain this holiday season. Groton-Dunstable is thankful for their second consecutive Mass. Division 2 State Title.
The Crusaders' season leader scorer Nate Pomeroy punched home the deciding goal in the 23rd minute to propel Groton-Dunstable past Medway 2-0 Saturday night at Worcester State University.
"This was Nate's time to shine," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Sean Wisbey. "I said to him when we started this journey that we lost the seniors that scored big goals for us last season. If we get back in the championship game, here is your moment to lead us, and he comes out and scores two big goals for us tonight."
Winning a state championship once in a lifetime is hard enough, but winning the crown twice in a row is magical. The Crusaders have sported an 18-0-3 mark in their last 20 games. Groton-Dunstable outscored all playoff opponents through districts and states by a combined margin of 13-2. Pomeroy tallied eight of the team's 13 goals in the postseason.
"I thought (Medford) were very strong in the midfield the way they moved the ball around," said Wisbey. "Once we got the lead, I was able to move someone back into the midfield and really clog things up. It really hurt them from developing anything going forward."
Groton-Dunstable came out from the opening whistle poised and ready to defend their crown. The potent combination of Doug Rosa and Alex Murphy in the midfield created great opportunities in the game for the Crusaders to go on the offensive attack.
In the 23rd minute, Pomeroy toed the end line on the left side, and coaxed the ball back with just enough touch off of Medway goalkeeper Brian Kokozska's leg to make it into the net for the eventual game-winner.
"I took a little bit bigger of a touch than I wanted to, but I was able to catch up to it," said Pomeroy on his rather uncharacteristic finish in the first half. "Right when it got on the goal line I decided to kick it across. Luckily it deflected off the keeper's leg and went in." The goal looked like more of a setup play for a cross into the box, but Pomeroy was able to finish with poise.
The Mustangs tried their luck on the counterattack following the Crusaders' goal. Junior striker Justin Kaplan blasted a shot with wicked pace from point-blank range towards the goal, but Crusaders' keeper Connor Maguire made a remarkable diving save with 20:00 remaining before halftime.
Senior Medway forward Michael Barry connected on a diving header about 10-yards out from the left side but Maguire ranged to his right and made the difficult save look easy.
The Mustangs would continue to push the tempo in the final 10 minutes of the first half, and they just narrowly broke through with 7:22 left in the half. Sophomore midfielder Marco Rego rang off a shot from the left side, but Maguire dove to his left and punched the ball away. Senior Groton-Dunstable defender Adam Kmetz lunged and stymied any chance of a rebound goal for the Mustangs.
Groton-Dunstable came out of halftime looking to put the Mustangs away. Senior defenseman Mike Keating lofted the ball in from 23 yards out on a free kick to find Pomeroy in the middle. Pomeroy buried the ball in the lower right corner of the net for the insurance goal with 23:57 left in the match. That was all the Crusaders would need to capture their second consecutive Division 2 crown. Groton-Dunstable outshot the Mustangs 11-8 in the match.
"The experience of being in this event last year, we weren't nervous," said Wisbey. "We had nothing to lose. This was the 50th win in the last three years for the program. Can you now say this is the first time in school history we had a back-to-back state champion? Is this the best team in school history? We have an argument," joked Wisbey.
In the time Wisbey has been at the helm of the Crusaders' boys' soccer program, Groton-Dunstable is 50-8-10 over three seasons. Dynasty is a strong word, but the Crusaders' boys' soccer team most certainly does have a valid argument.