Despite the leaves changing around Stewart Pitch, the Bears emerged from the locker room to face Wilbraham on a day that felt more like summer than autumn. Wilbraham started with the ball and it was immediately apparent that our opponents were a capable and well-coached team. Through good defending by Alden Boldt ’14, Andre Bogdanovic ’15, Henry Manley ’15, and Connor Shalleck ’16, the Bears were able to gain possession at the back during Wilbraham’s aggressive attacking runs and, using triangles, work on some quick passes to escape pressure.
Unfortunately, while our off ball movement was good, our play started to break down as we advanced through the midfield. Despite Wilbraham controlling the ball for the first 15 minutes and even creating some good scoring opportunities, the Bears earned a free kick about 40 yards out. Attacking midfielder Gerry Giminez-Valdez ’15 saw an opportunity, hit a well-struck ball, and caught the keeper off his line. The bench and team were in shock and it took the team a while to celebrate. Thankfully, his goal provided a little more confidence on the field and the Bears began to play some more composed soccer. Midfielder and co-captain Pete Warsinske ’14 started to play balls wide and Gerry one timed a ball out to left winger Chris Zaffanella ’15 who found an extra gear and generated a great scoring opportunity for the Bears. Keeper Liam Thor ’17 had some great saves against some breakaways by Wilbraham. However, with 22 minutes left in the half, Wilbraham was able to notch an equalizer and six minutes later take the lead, 2-1.
It took the Bears some time to regain composure but with 12 minutes left in the half, the Bears earned another free kick just outside the 18. Larry Matt ’17 stepped up and hit a nice ball into a melee of players in the six-yard box. Chris Zaffanella helped the ball continue its trajectory towards the goal to notch an equalizer for the Bears. Both teams headed into half-time fired up and ready to compete in the final 40 minutes.
The second half began with the Bears applying much more pressure, working to win 50-50 balls, and gaining the momentum. Wingers Josiah Tolvo ’16 and Rawson Clough ’17 made some good attacking runs and played several good balls into the 18 yard box. Striker Juan Cedeno ’17 continued to generate space for his teammates by moving off the ball and then checking to his teammates. In general, the second half provided many more chances for the Bears as the ball was worked from side-to-side more effectively and we generated much more space. With 20 minutes left to play, Pete Warsinske received a ball at the top of the 18 and blasted a shot over the keeper’s head to give Berkshire the lead for the second time in the game. The go-ahead goal kick-started the Wilbraham offense again and suddenly the ball was in the Bears half much more than we wanted.
After providing some fresh legs to the defense, several over the top balls were well cleared by wing defenders Jack Weeden ’17 and James Funderburg ’15. Keeper Henry Thomas ’16 kept our hopes of a victory alive covering a shot that looked like it might sneak into the upper 90 of the goal. But the barrage from Wilbraham continued and with 5 minutes left to play, the Bears gave up a goal to even the score at 3-3. Despite some good and aggressive runs in the final two minutes of the game, the Bears couldn’t find the back of the net again and the game finished at a 3-3 draw. It was a well-played JV soccer game and highlighted some great combination play by both teams.
We face Hotchkiss away this Saturday in what is sure to be a good test of the team again.