WORCESTER, Mass. - There is a lot of pressure when everybody expects that you will win. That did not bother Sutton on Saturday afternoon, as the Sammies put in a dominating performance to run away with a 4-0 victory in the Division 4 state championship game at WPI’s Alumni Stadium.
There was special symmetry for the Sammies with four goals to match the four consecutive titles that they have won (two in D3 and the last two in D4) and for the seniors it meant an entire career without knowing what it was like to lose the last game of the season.
“It’s amazing -- just going out on top again,” said senior defender Jordan Elster, who had a goal and an assist in the final. “Every year we think we can win it, but we don’t know that we can do it.”
He added, “Some people probably want us to lose because we’ve been winning so much, everyone wants to beat us because we’re the top dog, but we just keep on going.”
Jordan is the son of head coach Mike Elster and also shared this year’s title with his brother Brandon. He has also shared the past three titles with his other brother Ryan, who is currently at Springfield College. The family connection makes each title a special one for the head coach.
“It’s been special for me,” said Mike Elster. “I’ve won a few with my son that is at Springfield College right now and now I have two on the team so I’ve been able to share this with my family.”
The coach continued, “We thought we would have a good team but you just don’t expect that you’re going to get this far, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Sutton opened the scoring in the third minute. Kevin Rothermich got to a through ball from Dale Dubinsky and he placed his left-footed shot perfectly into the corner to make it 1-0 and ease the pressure on the favorites.
“Just to get an early gave us a lot of confidence,” explained Jordan Elster. “I don’t think we were playing well to be honest but when Kevin put in the goal and then we put in a couple more we knew it was good.”
Archies coach Brian Mitchell, who referred to Sutton as “hands down the best team in D4,” noted, “Focusing on Kevin was our plan coming in and he scores two minutes in. They’ve got a lot of club players and they’re very well organized…These guys haven’t given up a goal all postseason and have won four state titles so we knew how good they were coming in.”
Early in the game, Archies defender Brian Fisher was forced to the sidelines with a concussion and could not return. The shift of players left the Bishops vulnerable and in the 28th minute the Sammies took advantage to make it 2-0. Matthew Vallaro scored off a corner from Eric Bater.
Not wanting to sit on a two-goal lead, Sutton came out and attacked right out of halftime. The third goal was fortuitous with Jordan Elster’s long free kick being headed into the Archies goal by a Bishops defender.
“We got goals and we put pressure on them…we didn’t want to let them hang around,” said Mike Elster. “We talked about it at halftime because at 2-0 you’re still a little tight…Once we got the third we felt we were good and then we hoped that we would calm down.”
The game became increasingly physical in the second half with the teams collecting a combined seven yellow cards, including an Archies player being sent off after receiving his second.
“We had to try and keep our team composed…guys get very passionate in these games,” said Mike Elster. “So, you have to calm them down, pull them out and talk to them.”
The fourth goal came seconds after the sending off. Another long free kick by Jordan Elster found Cole Acocelli in the box and he finished to make it 4-0.
Jordan Elster said, “It’s a lot of pressure because we have to win all the time to get a good seed for districts so we just have to play extra tough. It’s all focus during the season and nothing comes in the way of soccer.”
In the state semifinal Archies scored a “Golden Goal” in overtime to book a trip to Worcester and Mitchell was focusing on what the team accomplished rather than the result of the program’s first ever state final appearance.
“I couldn’t have been any prouder of these guys,” he said. “That pig pile [after the semifinal] was the greatest thing that I’ve ever been a part of in soccer. Congrats to Sutton, but we’re so excited about what we’ve accomplished this season.”