DANVERS — St. John’s Prep soccer coach Dave Crowell knew exactly what he was doing when he put together his schedule this fall, opening the 2013 season with fellow powerhouse Masconomet.
In his 13th season as head coach, Crowell understands the importance of first impressions and what a game against the Chieftains this early in the season will do for his club later on down the road.
The two local heavyweights went head-to-head yesterday in a game that had a playoff-type atmosphere to it. Ending in a 1-1 tie, there was plenty of back and forth action and physical play from both sides.
“It’s always a great way to start off the season and see what you have,” explained Crowell. “To open with a game like this, I learned a lot about my team. We identified a few things that we want to move forward with and some other things that we might want to scrap. It gives us a chance to learn right away what we have.”
Both teams are quite familiar with each other, having met last season in the Division 1 North semifinals (the Prep eliminated Masco from the tournament by a score of 2-1). They each graduated a substantial number of starters from last year and are trying to feel out what combinations and players work best with new personnel.
“We wanted to play them again, especially after the tournament experience from last year,” said Masconomet head coach Dave Mitchell, now in his third season with the Chieftains. “It’s a good way to lead off with the Prep.”
Masco controlled possession throughout the first few minutes of the game, but St. John’s Prep found a break eight minutes in. Senior captain Anthony Vigliotta made a beautiful spin move along the right side of the Chieftains’ goal to beat a pair of defenders and found Liam Welch in front of the net and headed in the Eagles’ only goal of the contest.
The Chieftains tried several different front line combinations to see what worked best and saw excellent results from Stephen Pease, who took an initial shot along the right side and Max Craig was there to put it away on a rebound.
“We knew we’d get out chances and didn’t panic,” Mitchell said. “It was an up and down game both ways. We have a lot of younger guys too, so it was great to get them some experience against top club like St. John’s.”
Willie Stewart got the start for Masco and turned away three shots, while Bobby Holmes stopped four for the Prep. Holmes and Jared Costa are both vying for the starting keeper position, as it’s likely that Costa will get the nod on Saturday against Xavier during the Connecticut road trip.
Prep strikers Matt Magazzu and Mike Lanza were aggressive up front and had a few good looks off of Vigliotta’s corner kicks.
Masco’s P.J. Criscione had a few great chances along the left side as did Edison Forbes and Regan Charie, while Adam Grammer and Jack Heintzelman played strong in the midfield. The Chieftains are off until Monday as they begin league play against Pentucket.