Dublin School boys win River Valley League championship
No one gave them a chance.
The other coaches in the River Valley Athletic League told Dublin School boys soccer coach Brad Bates that Hartsbrook was too good. And Bates knew that the Waldorf School from Hadley, Mass. was a talented bunch.
Dublin had already squared off with Hartsbrook on Sept. 28 at home and suffered a 3-0 loss.
But Sunday’s River Valley championship game in Greenfield, Mass. presented an opportunity for the Wildcats to not only get a little payback for their only league loss, but also to show just how far the team had come since that meeting five weeks prior.
“My strategy was not to play the underdog role, but to stress we are a different team and this is how we’re going to win,” said Bates, who is also Dublin’s Head of Schools. “Our goal was to win our conference.”
So with a balanced scoring attack and a strong second half defensive effort, Dublin won the 2012 River Valley Athletic League boys soccer championship 4-2.
“Every time we played a school a second time it was much different,” Bates said. “We knew we had improved quite a bit since the first game.”
The Wildcats never trailed in the contest, a far cry from the only match-up between the two schools in September. Dublin twice took one-goal leads in the first half only to have Hartsbrook come back to tie the game.
It was a 2-2 contest at the half, but a pair of second half tallies were the difference in the game, as the Wildcats earned the first league title in school history.
“Our kids were much more dominant in the second half,” said Bates. “I could sense we were wearing them down.”
Cem Ozdeliorman of Turkey netted a hat trick and Jaffrey’s John Zimardo limited Hartsbrook, who entered the championship game undefeated, to just two first half goals and made some key saves down the stretch to lead Dublin to their 12th win of the season. Hartsbrook also lost in the finals last year.
The Wildcats entered the championship game winners of seven of their last eight games and the only defeat came to an out of conference opponent. During that stretch, Dublin had outscored the opposition 36-7 and were playing its best soccer of the season.
They were 5-1-1 in league play during the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed in the eight-team tournament, only trailing Hartsbrook.
In the quarterfinal round of the RVAL tournament last Thursday, the Wildcats blanked No. 7 Putney 6-0. That set up a meeting with third-ranked Buxton on Friday. The teams had met once during the regular season and it ended in Dublin’s only league tie, 4-4. In that contest, the Wildcats battled back from a three-goal second half deficit. But the second time around, Dublin dominated in a 3-0 win to earn a spot in the league championship game.
After the championship game, Dublin was 12-4-1, but only one of those defeats came in league action. The Wildcats also played powerhouses like Brewster Academy and the Hyde School in Maine. While both of those contests ended in defeat, the team earned valuable experience from playing opponents of that caliber.
“Those games really helped our confidence,” said Bates.
And the season isn’t over quite yet. After playing at the Winchendon School on Wednesday, Dublin will host the White Mountains School on Saturday. They have also applied for inclusion in the New England Small Private School tournament and will find out if they were selected by the end of the week.
Dublin graduates six seniors from this year’s team.