St. John's Captures District, Misses States

Published in the November 25, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Stow senior Tyler Masi and his teammates at St. John's of Shrewsbury know a thing or two about revenge, having seen it now from both sides. A year ago, in winning the state soccer title, the Pioneers paid back the Ludlow Lions for a 2003 loss in the state semifinals that snapped St. John's streak of 13 consecutive postseason wins. Last Tuesday, it was Ludlow's turn for payback, as the Lions extinguished the Pioneers hopes of repeating with a 2-0 decision at Foley Stadium in Worcester.

Rattled by an injury to junior midfielder Cam Stoker midway through the first half, the Pioneers (19-2-3) gave up a goal to aptly named Lions playmaker Michael Jordan with 19 minutes left and were down 1-0 at halftime. Christopher Pereira added an insurance goal with just under 24 minutes remaining in the game.

“We were just caught on our heels,” said Masi, a starting defenseman. “They scored both of their goals off crosses, which is tough because that's something we worked on a lot. It was disappointing.”

Ultimately, it was the Lions who went on to capture the state championship on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Framingham, which has now been state runner-up twice in a row.

Still, winning the Central Mass district title and reaching the state tournament was an impressive achievement for the 2008 Pioneers and first-year head coach Ryan Gates, whose team included just four seniors.

Not coincidentally, the district win was itself a tale of revenge. The 2-seed Pioneers found themselves matched up against top seed Algonquin, the only undefeated team in the district and the only team to have beaten St. John's all season. The previous meeting, on October 25, had been a hotly anticipated match between two then-undefeated teams, but the visiting Tomahawks dominated and came away with a 3-0 victory.

“That loss stunk,” Masi said. “Both of us were undefeated, and we came out and were just shamed on our own field. We knew we didn't play our best soccer.”

Three weeks later, in the district final game, things were different. The Pioneers were the decided underdogs this time around, but they were more cohesive, more communicative, and in the end, more effective. St. John's scored the first goal of the game and the last, both on plays that started with a throw-in by Masi and ended with junior midfielder Jeff MacDonald putting the ball in the net. In between, Algonquin was able to even the score, but the Pioneers prevailed 2-1.

“That revenge was huge,” Masi said. “It's great to be the underdog and silence all the critics.”

The win over Algonquin was unquestionably the highlight of the season for Masi, who said he may play indoor club soccer this winter but will focus most of his athletic efforts on track for the next two sports seasons. Last winter, Masi was a member of the Pioneers' 4x400 relay team that placed sixth at the state championships; he also competes in the 300 meter dash and the high jump.

Though repeating as state champions would have been fantastic, it was an extremely ambitious goal. Not reaching it doesn't negate the Pioneers' accomplishments this season, Masi said.

“It certainly wasn't a really disappointing season,” he said. “We executed our game plan pretty well, no matter what game it was. And we won districts, so that was a good note to end on. But our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it to the state finals, so it's still disappointing that we couldn't do that.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239