New England Champions!
Berkshire traveled to Middlesex School in Concord, MA to play against #3 Philips Exeter Academy in the New England Class A Final. The Class B, C, and D Finals and the NEPSSA Junior and Senior All-Star Games were held at Middlesex, so it was a great day of soccer in general with lots of people on hand to see all of the exciting action. For Berkshire it was an exciting day that the team had dreamed of for quite some time, and to play one of the largest and oldest prep schools in the country on this day made it all that more exciting.
From the start of the match, it was clear the Bears had come to play, but it was clear too that Exeter had also come to play. Berkshire moved the ball well and handled the high pressure from Exeter. Working deep into Exeter's end of the field for much of the first half, Berkshire generated some fine scoring chances; however, the collective defense that Exeter displayed was impressive and several fine saves from Exeter's kept the game level. Jack Harrison '15, Zeiko Lewis '13, and Tony Amolo '13 displayed fine attacking skills throughout the day, and Berkshire's central midfields was superb: Haden Cosman '13, Luis Echeverria '13, Tanner Tomasi '14, and Matty Wieczorek '14, off the bench, controlled the play for the Bears and dictated the tempo. Matt Renzi '13 earned a start at left back filling in for his teammate Noah Sinkoff '13 who was injured in the semifinal match against Kent. Matt was superb in the match and played his best game as a Berkshire Bear. With him in the back was Brandon Allen '13, Nate Summers '14, and Justin Donawa '15. Justin was on half a leg as he was also injured in the Kent match, but he did well despite his injury. The Bears were able to fend off Exeter's strong forwards who were aggressive trying to get forward. Berkshire did well to limit the number of set pieces Exeter had throughout the afternoon, which was great as Exeter had some big players in their line-up. Though Berkshire had the better of the possession and scoring chances in the first half, the game was level at 0-0 entering the halftime break.
In the second half, the Bears knew they would need a quick start, and a quick start they got with an amazing goal from Zeiko Lewis '13. Lewis received a pass from Jack Harrison '15 in the corner, and then Lewis angled to the top corner of the 18 where he hit one of his best strikes of the season. It was perfect strike that curled just beyond the Exeter keeper's hands and just below the crossbar. The ball struck high in the side netting, and the Berkshire fans erupted with excitement. They had come close several times in the first half, so this goal was a great relief to all Berkshire fans on hand. The excitement did not end, as just 2 minutes later, Lewis struck again when Tanner Tomasi '14 sent a pass into Lewis who made a quick maneuver and slotted in his second goal of the afternoon. Up 2-0, Berkshire gained even more confidence. Exeter surged in an attempt to get on the board, but Berkshire's back line and keeper, Sam Clougher '13, were up for the challenge and looked determined to keep another clean sheet. Though Berkshire faced greater pressure, the Bears still proved to be extremely dangerous in the counter attack. Zeiko Lewis '13, Jack Harrison '15, Tony Amolo '13, and Tanner Tomasi '14 were able to keep possession and wear down the Exeter defense. Though the Bears came close to scoring again, the score would remain the same and finish with a solid 2-0 win for the Bears.
When the final whistle blew, Berkshire's bench and fans took to the field and the celebration began. It was undoubtedly a memory that will last forever in the minds of all who were there. A fine day indeed for the Bears. Winning the New England Class A Championship for the first time, Berkshire completed an impressive unbeaten season of 19-0-1. Two other Berkshire teams (1969 and 1971) had also finished unbeaten under Jack Stewart, and it was nice to see member of both teams on hand to congratulate the 2012 on their special accomplishment. It was even more exciting to have Elly Stewart, wife of Jack, on hand to award the Berkshire team with its first ever Stewart Cup.
It was a historic year for the Bears in many ways: first Stewart Cup, record number of single season wins (19), record for consecutive wins (17), record for goals scored in a season (80), and some impressive defensive statistics such as conceding on 7 goals in 20 games and earning a record number of shutouts in a singles season (15). While it was certainly exciting to win the cup and to establish some new records for the team, what was most enjoyable about this entire season was the great bond this team shared from start to finish. I know that this season will never escape the memory of all who participated in this exciting season, and I am thrilled that so many alumni, parents, and faculty and staff were a part of the experience. From the support we received for our trip to Sweden, to the snacks and drinks at each game, to the great turnout at the alumni soccer match, and the incredible energy we received in our playoff run, the team felt the constant show of support along the journey. Without this support, the team could not have had such a successful season.
Thanks to all who made this such a special season. We'll do our best to pick up where we finished this season. Already looking forward to an exciting 2013 season!