WORCESTER, Mass. -- Nate Pomeroy’s seventh and eighth goals of the postseason helped fire the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders to their second straight MIAA Division 2 boys’ soccer state title. The Crusaders beat South sectional champions Medway 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at Worcester State University’s Coughlin Field.
After sending two shots narrowly wide from the edge of the box, Pomeroy opened the scoring from the unlikeliest of positions.
The senior forward drove at the Medway defense and took the ball all the way to the end line before sending in a shot across the face of goal. Somehow, despite having no angle, the ball snuck past Mustangs keeper Brian Kokoszka.
In the 57th minute, Pomeroy struck again. Mike Keating played a long free kick across the box and Pomeroy was on hand to power a header into the roof of the net and make the score line more comfortable for the Central champions.
Groton-Dunstable coach Sean Wisbey spoke after the game about the contributions of his star player and the need for Pomeroy to step up and replace the production lost from last year’s squad.
“This was Nate’s time to shine," Wisbey said. "I told him, ‘This is going to be your moment to lead us.’ And, you know what, he comes out and scores two big goals for us.”
Pomeroy was also part of last season’s state champions, but was unable to get on the scoreboard against Concord-Carlisle. According to the future Brown Bear, he saw much more of the ball this time around.
“It was good that we were able to get the balls to me this game," he said. "I didn’t feel as much pressure as I did last season. I didn’t feel as much pressure with the man-to-man marking, which gave me more space.”
Pomeroy talked through scoring the first goal from a seemingly impossible angle, “I kind of just put it across to see what would happen and it deflected off the keeper’s leg and it went in. It was great to get the momentum, I think it probably shocked them and put them back on their heels.”
Medway (19-4-1) had several early opportunities stopped by Crusaders keeper Connor Maguire. The best chance fell to junior striker Justin Kaplan on the far post for a cross but his volley was blocked by a scrambling Maguire.
Sophomore Brendan Robinson also had a shot blocked on the line by Groton-Dunstable defender Adam Kmetz.
Mustangs head coach Jeff Hallenbeck admitted after the game that if Medway scored those early games, it could have shifted the momentum.
“If we’d have gotten those breaks we would have settled down probably a little bit more, and it would have been an entirely different game,” he said.
Medway was notably without striker Matt Coakley, which forced freshman Jacob Warren to start up front, but also had injuries in the midfield that affected the team. Junior midfielder Aidan Burke and sophomore Adem Karacaoglu were not able to play and they left a big hole in the center of the park.
“Matt’s loss impacted us greatly," Hallenbeck said. "He was a huge loss, but our biggest loss was Aidan Burke. When he went down it depletes our midfield core then we lost another one last game (Karacaoglu) so now we’re down two central midfielders and it was too much for us tonight.”
The Crusaders controlled the second half and limited Medway to long-range shooting and set piece chances. In fact the best two chances of the half fell to the Mustangs, but neither was on target.
Wisbey raved about his experienced defense, in particular center back Mike Keating, and its ability to shut down the Mustangs.
“I brought back three of my starting backs from last year’s state championship team," Wisbey said. "I put him (Keating) back there about four games into the season. Since I put him back there, we have been 17-0-3 in the last 20. They don’t give you a lot of opportunities.”
Having gone through a championship run last season, Wisbey and his team understood the pressure of the state finals and it enabled them to be more relaxed than they had been in 2011.
“Realistically we went into this game with no stress tonight," he said. "We had gone through this journey where last year we were the nervous team. This year we weren’t nervous at all. Win or lose, this is a celebration of all that these kids have done.”