Tigers' postseason hopes rest on final two games

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Gabe Dreyer” align=”alignleft” width=”199″]Senior Arthur Moss-Hawkins dribbles the ball.[/media-credit]

Senior Arthur Moss-Hawkins dribbles the ball.

by Kristian Lundberg
Once again, boys’ soccer faces a season on the brink.
One year removed from a magical run in the State Tournament, the Tigers, 6-5-5 Wednesday, needed at least a draw from their final two matches to sneak into the playoffs.
The Tigers were to have played the first of these two yesterday at Needham, a team they tied earlier this season. If they failed to earn the crucial point then, the team would face a tie-or-go-home scenario in tomorrow’s season finale against Lexington at Dickinson Stadium.
If the Tigers do sneak through the back door to make the postseason, coach Roy Dow may need to rely on a strategy similar to last season’s.
Last year, boys’ soccer survived in the playoffs mainly because of its virtually impenetrable defense and because of an offense that came through in crunch time to score key goals.
Dow attributes the Tigers’ defensive strength this season to the play of their two veteran center backs. “Seniors Tim Stanton and Jackson Moss-Hawkins have played together for many years, and this is their second year together on varsity,” he said. “They’re confident and comfortable on the field, and their skill sets complement each other.”
Dow added, “Between them and our outside backs, all of whom are good soccer players and tough tacklers, we’re able to not only win the ball but also initiate our attack.”
During the regular season, the offense has struggled to score at times, which could hinder the team in traditionally low-scoring playoff matches.
“We’ve had struggles with finishing,” said senior Luke Westman, a captain with Stanton. “But with our experience last year, we may surprise teams who don’t take us seriously.”
Dow said the team is working on “patterns of play off the ball,” to help production on offense.
“In the tournament, our only goal is to survive and advance,” he said. “Tournaments reward teams that survive, so we need to adapt to what’s in front of us to advance to the next round.”
Still, Dow expressed confidence in how the team will fare.
“Soccer is a game of passion, perhaps more so than any other sport. If we play with passion, good things will happen.”
The Tigers only have to look back to last season to find the epitome of postseason endurance. Making the postseason was an accomplishment in itself for last year’s Tigers, who were coming off a disappointing season following the death of coach Ucal McKenzie.
However, the squad, seeded 19th out of the 26 teams in their division, adopted a never-say- die attitude and pulled off an incredible run, defeating some of the best teams in the state before finally bowing in the State Semifinals. What originally seemed to be a rebuilding year for Dow, then a first-year coach, turned into a stunning, fairytale-esque season.
Part of the goal for this year’s team is to avoid the sophomore slump.
Dow plans to focus on controlling the flow of the matches.
“We can move the ball really well, and we have quality all over,” he said. “We can still play our game against the best teams in the state, and in the tournament, the team that can impose its style has an easier job.
“This year, we’ve been able to impose our style on other teams, and we’ve made them chase the ball.”