Boston High School: Brandon Vazquez

Four MIAA soccer storylines to watch

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
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With MIAA soccer matches kicking off this week, here are four storylines to watch for the new season:

1. Realignment changes dynamic of postseason.

The MIAA realigns this season and a number of teams will be competing in different divisions this year. The biggest change is that Division 2 now only exists in Eastern Mass. This means a shift for several teams out West, including Belchertown, which now has its girls playing in Div. 1 while the boys are expected to dominate in Div. 3. Two-time defending D2 state champion Groton-Dunstable also faces a jump up to D1 in Central Mass.

In the boys’ South sectionals, these changes have suddenly created a D2 tournament that will be as difficult as just about any sectional in the state. Division 1 South semifinalists Dartmouth and Oliver Ames, along with fellow playoff teams Nauset, Walpole, and Catholic Memorial will all be dropped down. The teams combined for seven wins in the 2012 D1 playoffs and, when added to D2 mainstays like Canton, Medfield, and Hingham, will provide a deep bracket filled with potential state champs. One team not included in that list is last season’s D2 South winner, Medway, which will now compete for the D3 title.

All of the movement will add some spice come October and November as many of the teams (for example the Dedham girls, who have been moved to D3) compete in leagues with teams in higher division or schedule those opponents to prepare for the playoffs.

2. What happens when the face of the program leaves?

The Needham boys will be without their all-time leading scorer, Mac Steeves, this season and on the girls’ side there are a number of programs that have lost not only good players, but among their best ever.

Franklin’s Kristi Kirshe, Peabody’s Hayley Dowd, Oliver Ames’ Kendall Andrew, Canton’s Lauren Berman, Nashoba’s Kim Slade, and Concord-Carlisle’s Andrea O’Brien are just a few of the graduates that have left question marks around entire programs. (Apologies to anyone not mentioned - it’s a very big list.)

Many of these teams are familiar faces in the rankings and will find a way to be successful even without the big name (Franklin for instance is still considered the team to beat in D1), but that is an amazing amount of talent moving on and it has changed the whole perspective on how successful these teams can be. It has opened the door for new league and sectional champions.

In many cases these players were not only the best player and the talent that produced wins on the field, but also the foundation on which the team formulated its game plan. Now, coaches may have to adjust to lesser talents that are not able to decide games on their own and players will have to step up and take responsibility where before they could simply pass to the star. It’s a challenge that will be interesting to watch this season.

3. A true rivalry out West.

Ludlow, boasting 17 state titles, has long been the dominant force in the West region, but last year Amherst earned its first ever sectional title and showed that it could compete with the best. This season, Ludlow is considered the team to beat but, with seniors Brandon Vazquez and Eric Gooden, Amherst believes that it has closed the gap. Both teams are ranked in the preseason Top 10 and now there are two teams that people out East have to ask about at the start of every year.

If the fans of Belchertown had their way, there would be a third team to add to the rivalry. The Orioles put up numbers last year that would make Barcelona jealous, but it is hard to determine the caliber of teams that they are competing against. With the drop into D3 this season, the gap between Belchertown and the top teams in the West is even larger, making it even more difficult to rate them.

4. Mr. Soccer and Miss Soccer races heat up.

Going into the season, there are a number of players to watch out for and the race for the second annual ESPNBoston.com Mr. and Miss Soccer awards (won last year by Mac Steeves of Needham and Kristi Kirshe of Franklin) has the potential to be very close.

Here are preliminary lists of some of the male and female players to watch heading into 2013:

Boys – Thayrone Miranda (Sr., F, Somerville); Dave Stapleton (Sr., M/F, Oliver Ames); Klisman Souza (Sr., M, New Bedford); Brandon Vazquez (Sr., M, Amherst); Noah Martins (Sr., M, Dartmouth); Aram Ouligian (Jr., D/M, Needham); Michael Dushman (Sr., M, Bedford); Paul Beatty (Sr., F, Silver Lake); Bobby Ivatts (Jr., M, Walpole); Lucas Resende-Verge (Sr., K, Weymouth).

Girls – Caitlin Harty (Sr., F, Beverly); Taylor Cogliano (Jr., F, Franklin); Kate Holleran (Sr., M, Oliver Ames); Lauren Petit (Sr., M, Medfield); Kayla Steeves (Jr., M, Needham); Breanne Moreau (Sr., M, Belchertown); Brooke Murphy (Sr., F, Monson); Maddie Jolin (Jr., F, Bishop Feehan); Alexis Fruzetti (So., F, Whitman-Hanson).

Mr. and Miss Soccer finalists announced

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
1:20
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For the first time in site history, we're pleased to announce that ESPN Boston will honor the top boys' and girls' MIAA soccer player with its first-ever Mr. and Miss Soccer Awards this year.

The winners will be announced on Monday, Dec. 3, but we've whittled down our lists to a final five candidates today.

Without further ado:

MR. SOCCER FINALISTS:
Felix DeBona, Sr. F, Somerville
- The D1 North champions were led by DeBona's 29 goals, including the lone goal against St. John's Prep that clinched the sectional title. DeBona's scoring propelled the Highlanders to 15th in the NSCAA national rankings, a Greater Boston League title, and an undefeated regular season.

Dave MacKinnon, Sr. GK, Oliver Ames - MacKinnon was named an All-American for his commanding play in net for the Davenport division champions. He gave up only four goals during the regular season with 13 shutouts and was named the Hockomock League MVP. In the playoffs, MacKinnon's save during the shootout helped the Tigers beat league rival Franklin in the opening round.

Nate Pomeroy, Sr. F, Groton-Dunstable - Pomeroy, who is bound for Brown University next season, notched two goals in the D2 state finals to clinch back-to-back titles for the Crusaders. Pomeroy was named to the All-New England team and named Mid-Wach B MVP this season. He had eight goals in the 2012 postseason run.

Cody Savonen, Sr. F, Nauset - Savonen led Nauset to the D1 South sectional quarterfinals and eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the season. He had a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Plymouth South that wrapped up the third Atlantic Coast League title of his career and scored the winner in the opening playoff game against Wellesley.

[+] EnlargeMac Steeve
Courtesy of Josh PerryNeedham senior captain Mac Steeve led the Rockets to a Division I state title and is a finalist for our inaugural Mr. Soccer Award.
Mac Steeves, Sr. F, Needham - The Rockets all-time leading scorer was named an All-American this season and led Needham to the Division 1 state title. Steeves also showed his ability to step up in big games. He scored both goals (and drew the penalty for the second) against Somerville in the state semifinals and scored the winning goal in the state finals against Amherst.

Honorable Mentions: Osla DeBrito (New Bedford), Mike Lynch (Weymouth), Thayrone Miranda (Somerville), Brandon Miskin (Needham), Ryan Rose (Acton-Boxborough), Justin Rothemich (Sutton), Zach Scafati (Franklin), Stowe Simonton (Concord-Carlisle), Dave Stapleton (Oliver Ames), Brandon Vazquez (Amherst).

MISS SOCCER FINALISTS:
Lauren Berman, Sr. F, Canton - With over 40 goals this season, Berman was the standout player for the Davenport division champions and a Hockomock League All-Star. Berman's accomplishments earned her All-American status and she will be playing in the ACC for the University of Maryland next season. She finished her career with over 130 goals.

Kristi Kirshe Sr. F, Franklin - Kirshe eclipsed the 100-goal plateau for her career during the D1 playoffs. She scored in the state semifinal and scored both goals to lead the Panthers to the program's first-ever state title.She is an All-American as well as the state MVP. Compiling more than 30 goals this season, Kirshe helped a young Franklin team to an undefeated season.

Jen Narlee, Sr. M, Medfield - Narlee is the leader of a very strong defensive unit for the D2 state champions. A physical presence in the center of the field, Narlee does many of the little things that do not get on the scoresheet. Many of the Warriors' opponents saw their attacks snuffed out by Narlee's positional play. That strong defense has helped Medfield win two of the past three state titles.

Andrea O'Brien, Sr. F, Concord-Carlisle - O'Brien finished her career with over 100 goals and will take her talents to Boston College next year. An All-New England selection and submitted for All-American consideration, O'Brien helped lead the Patriots to a Dual County League title and to the second round of the tournament.

Kimberly Slade, Sr. F, Nashoba - Slade is one of the brightest stars in the Central region. The senior forward was an All-New England selection and her playmaking ability helped lead the Chieftains to a sectional title and trip to the state championship game, where she scored the team's only goal.

Honorable Mentions: Kendall Andrew (Oliver Ames), Mimi Borkan (Medfield), Jillian Cavanaugh (Belchertown), Taylor Cogliano (Franklin), Laura Courtney (Nashoba), Hayley Dowd (Peabody), Caitlin Harty (Beverly), Maddie Jolin (Bishop Feehan), Alexa Poulin (Central Catholic), Kayla Steeves (Needham).

Boys' soccer: Amherst 1, Leominster 0

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
4:09
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BOLTON, Mass. -- In the traditional sense, something had to give.

In Wednesday’s boys’ soccer Division 1 state semifinal between Amherst and Leominster, a mix of history and destiny were in question. The Hurricanes had never been there, running past traditional West power and defending state champion Ludlow to claim their first-ever sectional title. Their opponent, the Blue Devils, rode into the postseason by slimmest of margins with a 5-4-7 record entering action and were a surprise winner of the Central sectional as a No. 12 seed.

While Amherst at times looked the stronger side on the pitch, play remained scoreless through the 56th minute when junior midfielder Brandon Vazquez broke the stalemate and booted the Hurricanes to their first state final with a 1-0 win over the Blue Devils.

Meanwhile, the Amherst back line made it stand up in front of goalkeeper Curtis Barnes (5 saves) while earning the shutout.

“I think after the win against Ludlow, it really boosted our confidence,” Vazquez said. “We came out strong today and we got the job done.”

The Hurricanes (14-2-5) came out firing, but Leominster stayed in the early action behind senior keeper Rondinelle DePaula.

The teams went to the half scoreless, but Amherst continued attacking the Blue Devils’ head-on in the second.

“We didn’t make any formation changes, we just knew we had to play harder and don’t let up, that’s what we did,” Vazquez said.

Amherst finally broke through in the 56th minute with Vazquez breaking a double-team and streaking down the center of the field and into the box. The feed from Erik Schleeweis was met with a subtle tap into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

“I saw an open gap approaching on the right when I came closer and I knew it was good for me to make it through,” Vazquez said. “Then, when I saw the keeper come out, I just slid it past him.”

Leominster pushed the pace in the final 15 minutes, but failed to must many quality scoring chances; they were out-chanced in the match by a 3-to-1 ratio.

The Hurricanes weathered the storm, led by senior captain and center back Cody Baglow, leaving the rest to be scooped up by Barnes.

“As usual, it was incredible,” Barnes said of the defensive play in front of his net. “I couldn’t ask for a better back line. They save me from doing more work than I have to and it’s certainly a pleasure to have such a back line.”

Amherst advances to face Eastern Mass. champion Needham, which claimed a 2-1 win over North champion Somerville. The Hurricanes and Rockets will face off Friday at Worcester State College in a 7:30 p.m. start for the state title.

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