NHIAA D-II Boys' Soccer semis: Hollis/Brookline, Windham triumph
EXETER — If Johnny O’Neil figured he would finish his high school career without scoring a goal, he figured wrong.
O’Neil, a senior, was the hero in second-seeded Hollis/Brookline’s 1-0 triumph over third-seeded Pembroke Academy in the NHIAA Division II boys’ soccer semifinals Thursday night at Exeter High School’s Eustis Field.
O’Neil was parallel to the field when he headed Jack Barbour’s diagonal pass from the right corner past Pembroke goalkeeper Robert Trujillo with 16:30 to play. It was O’Neill’s first goal in his two seasons of varsity soccer.
“He crossed it and I knew I just had to dive for it no matter what,” O’Neil said. “I was ready to dive and score. I wanted it so bad. I don’t think I was running with enough speed to get a foot on it, so I just threw my body and dove at it.
“I hit it with the top of my head, I was looking up and I saw it float in. I was just in so much shock. Then everyone looked at me and it was great.”
The victory raised Hollis/Brookline’s record to 16-2-0 and earned the Cavaliers a return trip to the Division II championship game. Hollis/Brookline will face top-seeded Windham for the title Sunday (4:30 p.m.) in Exeter. The Jaguars advanced by beating fourth-seeded Oyster River 2-1 in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Windham beat Hollis/Brookline in last year's championship game. The Jaguars also beat the Cavaliers 4-2 earlier this season.
"That's the first goal of the season for Johnny, so it's just a great moment for him," Hollis/Brookline coach Rick Carvalho said. "We talked at halftime about who wanted to shine brightest under the lights. He answered that question."
The Cavaliers have made it to at least the semifinals in each of Carvalho’s three years as Hollis/Brookline’s head coach.
It was the second meeting between Hollis/Brookline and Pembroke this season. Hollis/Brookline posted a 2-1 victory during the regular season.
Trujillo and Hollis/Brookline’s Michael Pattelena each made six saves. Pembroke completed its season with a 15-3-1 record.
“It was one of those hard-fought games and it took a good goal to break things open,” Pembroke coach Peter Bisson said. “Rick was saying it was their best goal of the year. I thought both teams played well. It definitely took a good goal to decide it.”
Windham 2, Oyster River 1: James Baiguy scored on a free kick with 12:16 left in the first half and Joe Forti doubled Windham’s lead with 25:55 to play in the second half as the top-seeded Jaguars reached the Division II championship game for the second consecutive season.
Baiguy also scored during Windham’s 2-1 triumph over ninth-seeded Souhegan in the quarterfinals.
Said Windham coach Mike Hachey: “When you get to this stage and you have to rely on so many guys, it makes you feel good about the depth of your team. There’s talent all the way through the 25-man roster.
“We certainly got our scare at the end, but they did what they had to do. When they’re pushing so many guys up front it’s tough to get the ball out of your zone.
Neil Thomas scored for Oyster River on a corner kick with 3:28 to play. Patrick Mulhern assisted on the goal.