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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It took a little bit of time following a 2-3-2 start, but the Wellesley High School varsity boys soccer team has found its stride at the perfect time after rattling off six consecutive victories over the last two weeks to completely turn their season around and climb to 8-3-2 with playoffs just around the corner.
The defending outright Bay State Conference champs have been forced to battle through significant adversity all season with starting keeper Anders Pineau (leg) missing time, as well as senior captain and midfielder Owen DeOliveira entering the year injured.
During their six-game win streak, the Raiders have not only won every contest, but they have been absolutely dominant in doing so, outscoring their opposition 19-1 with five shutouts. Arguably the most convincing victory of all six came at rival and perennial Bay State Conference power Framingham on October 11 in the form of a 5-0 rout, a win that head coach Tim Mason says not only depicts the resilience of his team, but also the Wellesley boys soccer program’s ascent into the ranks of powers like Framingham.“It was scoreless at the half and like a lot of games this season, we had a lot of chances that we weren’t able to capitalize on with a hit post and a hit crossbar,” said Mason on the win over Framingham. “You could just kind of see the same thing happening, where it was going to be one of those days. We got into the locker room at halftime and told the guys to just stick to the basics and we made a few minor adjustments. We scored three in the first 12 or 13 minutes of that second half and that was it - game over. I’ve been here for eight years now, and we’re really starting to knock down some of these barriers and mental hurdles. The league is changing and we’re used to playing teams like Framingham, Newton North, Brookline once a year … now we got them twice, and we’re learning how to pick our game up pretty quick and expect to be in these tough games on a more frequent basis. I think we’ve embraced it very well.”
Four, days later, Wellesley shut out rival Brookline 3-0 before a 5-0 victory at Braintree on October 18. As for what has sparked this recent surge in the standings, Mason credits his team’s spark in confidence.
“Confidence across the field has definitely improved,” said Mason on the streak. “It’s been just a big confidence flow, everybody has had a lot of self belief. The way we won the Sharon game with two late goals really got everybody going. When you’re getting the chances and not scoring, like we were during a lot of the games to start the season, people tend to start passing when they should shoot and vice-versa. As a group, the confidence is at an all-time high after the way things have gone lately.”
Three players who’ve stuck out during Wellesley’s six-game win streak, in Mason’s mind, are keeper Ethan Liss-Roy, junior midfielder Oskar Haeberlein, and Owen DeOliveira.
“Ethan has been our backup for a couple years, and Anders [Pineau], our starter, is one the best keepers in the league,” said Mason. “Ever since the Newton North game when Ethan got thrown in right before kickoff with Anders out quite suddenly, Ethan has really stepped up and delivered for us. He’s recorded five shutouts, so that’s way more than anything we could have asked. Having your backup step into a full-time role like he has is always a tricky situation, and he’s done an absolutely excellent job of stepping up.”
“Owen scored those two goals against Sharon to sort of get this thing rolling,” said Mason. “He scored against Framingham, two against Brookline, so he’s just been big in all of this. He came into the season banged up a bit, and he’s stepped up at big times for us. He’s a big-game player and always tends to step up at the right times. As a senior captain, he’s somebody who wants the ball and he always wants to make something happen. [His performance against] Sharon was the perfect example of that, scoring both those big goals and leading by example.”
“I didn’t even realize this until last night when I was going through all the stats, but Oskar Haeberlain is now our top goal and assist scorer,” said Mason. “He scored and had an assist against Natick, scored and had an assist against Milton, had an assist against Sharon, got an assist at Framingham, two assists against Brookline, scored two goals and had two assists against Braintree. He’s just been super, super consistent with goals and assists. We’ve changed formations and he was moved out of his natural position into more of a forward position, and he has not complained … He’s chipped in heavily with goals and assists, so he’s done a fantastic job.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.