WESTBOROUGH – The Groton Dunstable Crusaders boys’ soccer team saw their season come to an end on penalty kicks for the second consecutive year, with the Westborough Rangers claiming a 1-0 victory in an MIAA Division 1 Central quarterfinal match at Westborough High after winning the shootout 4-2.
The fourth-seeded Rangers converted on all four of their shots on Gabe Dingle, whom G-D head coach Sean Wisbey shifted from midfield to keeper for penalties for his size. The Crusaders missed their first shot, then converted on their next two, before Westborough keeper Griffin Barry dove to his left and got his hand on a low shot by Midland-Wachusett League MVP Matt Straw to seal the victory.
“You can’t miss that first penalty kick,” Wisbey said. “Missing that first one set the tone for [Westborough] to say, ‘As long as we put it in the net, we’re going to win this.’”
The fifth-seeded Crusaders dominated time of possession in regulation and overtime, but were unable to find the back of the net. They outshot the Rangers 20-8 and did not allow a Ranger shot until the 54th minute.
“If you get to these games and you can’t put the ball in the net, you’re not going to go too far,” Wisbey said. “When it goes to penalty kicks, it’s anybody’s game.”
Matt Tornaritis had three chances to give the Crusaders the lead in the second half. In the 45th minute, he dribbled his way through the entire Westborough defense, but his shot went wide of the right post. Later, he fired a shot from 25 yards out that was destined for the net, but Barry made the finest of his eight saves by tipping it over the crossbar. Tornaritis had one more chance off a feed from Straw, but once again he missed wide right.
Despite not registering a shot in the first half, the Rangers made the Crusaders sweat about 20 minutes in with back-to-back-to back corner kicks, but the Crusaders passed the last of the tests and cleared the ball to safety.
“Soccer can be a cruel game sometimes,” Wisbey said. “I felt like we weathered the storm with them in the first 20 minutes. I knew if we could get to halftime at 0-0, we could dominate play with the wind behind our back.”
Both teams had a chance to score the golden goal in the second overtime, but both shots went over the crossbar. Westborough’s Lucas Silva had the first chance after recovering an errant G-D pass before overshooting. Tornaritis then had another opportunity similar to his first one in the second half, using fancy footwork to spring free of the the Ranger defense, but his shot was too strong as well.
It was the third meeting between the two teams this season, with each team winning on the road once.
The Crusaders finished their season at 13-5-2. Despite the result, Coach Wisbey had nothing but good things to say about his players.
“I’m proud of the boys and the way they represented us all season long,” Wisbey lauded. “We’ve got a lot of pride in our program, and you know what? We’ll regain ourselves next year and come back at this again.
The Rangers improved to 13-4-2, and will face the winner of the Algonquin/Hudson matchup in the semifinal.