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DS Lightning adjusts to new rules

This free kick was stopped, but Dover-Sherborn would find three goals soon after.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On Friday evening, the Dover-Sherborn Lightning, a blended seventh and eight grade team of the BAYS (Boston Area Youth Soccer) soccer league defeated the Wellesley Heat by a score of 3-2 to move to 2-2 on the year. But after the game, when asked his overall thoughts on the win, coach Adrian Hill simply noted how well his team has come together.

“It’s a blended seventh and eighth grade team,” he explained, “and they’re really blending as teammates now, which is fantastic.”

Wellesley took an early lead on a free kick from just outside the box, before Dover-Sherborn couldn’t respond with their own free kick, which was saved by the Wellesley goalkeeper. The Lightning did respond soon after with a goal off a rebound, then two more from deep, including the game-winner, which ricocheted off the post and into the net. When asked whose performance most stuck out to him, Coach Hill declared: “I think Jack Martin, who scored a goal at the end, and whose dad, Scott, is an assistant coach. He was brilliant.”

With no headers, there were far more bicycle kick attempts than you’d usually see.

BAYS adopted the MYSA rule changes related to COVID-19, which included replacing the throw-in with a kick-in, outlawing slide tackles, and eliminating defensive walls. Getting rid of the walls might not matter much with younger players, but at this level, it made a huge difference. Rather than have to curl the ball around a wall, these eight grade defenders have to wait for the ball to be touched (one player taps it and the other blasts it to get around the "indirect" versus "direct" issue), then rush towards them, almost like the defenders do during a rugby free kick, while the kicker has tons of space to work with. Hill resorted to putting a defender in the net, along with the goalkeeper, later in the game, but when asked how that rule impacts the game, he noted: “You fear them a little more, but it’s okay.”

Without being able to build a wall, there’s a lot of space for a free kick taker to try and go directly at goal.

The lack of headers is also noteworthy, because of how odd it makes corner kicks. There were many moments in the game when a player would try to leap up and chest the ball into the goal or flip around and try a bicycle kick; it was clear that had headers been allowed, the player would likely have just jumped up and nodded one into the back of the net.

It’s hard not to think about how if headers were allowed, this would have been an easy goal.

This attitude that every rule change was okay seemed to be how both Hill and his team were going about their business. When asked about the masks and the rule changes, he said that “The kids adjust. The kids just want to play. It’s the adults who think, ‘how can they play with masks?’, but the kids love it.”

As for the fans, there’s a sign at Caryl Park indicating that only one family member could watch the game. This was a bit odd, because there was so much room around the field. There weren’t even any spectators standing on the side of the field where the players were, although the occasional hiker would come out of the woods and linger for a while, watching.

The handshake line is really more of a distanced thumbs up line in the Covid era.

Still, for the kids playing Boston Area Youth Soccer, any form of soccer is better than none. On Friday evening, the Dover-Sherborn Lightning put on their masks, adjusted to the new rules, and beat Wellesley.

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