The Halifax-Carver under 16 boys team ended the spring season atop the Division II Coastal League standings with a record of 6-1-1. The first-place finish earned them a spot at the upcoming Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) held this weekend at Progin Park in Lancaster, MA.
The team is made up of 19 players in the ninth and tenth grade with the majority of the team coming from Halifax. The Halifax residents on the roster include Joseph Boardman, Benjamin Coombe, Thomas Czarniak, Daniel Ford, Richard Greene, Jared Hall, Jake Lawless, Ryan McAndrews, Jake McKee, Scott McKee, Gabriel Pacheco, Simao Rebelo, Trevor Rossini, Nicholas Tereshko, Connor Willis, and Cole Wright. The three Carver players are Cameron Besegai, Ethan Best, and Brandon Weygand. The team is coached by Jim Coombe and his son, Bridgewater State College student Nate Coombe. Coombe, who has coached both of his sons, has been with some of the players on the team since they played U8. The Carver players play varsity at Carver Middle High School and several of the Halifax players play freshman and junior varsity soccer at Silver Lake.
As described on the Massachusetts Youth Soccer website, “The Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC) is a season-ending tournament that brings together age/gender group champions from participating town-based travel leagues from across the state.”
Thousands of coaches and players will attend and twelve teams will compete for top U16 boys Division II honors at MTOC. The top regular season team coming out of the Berkshire, BAYS, Coastal, Essex, MAYS, Middlesex, Nashoba, Pioneer Valley, South Coast, and South Shore leagues as well as two wild card teams will round out the competition.
The teams will be divided into three groups of four teams with the winner of each group as well as one wild card advancing to the next round. Each team is guaranteed three games. Halifax-Carver will play their first two games at 10am and 2:30pm Friday with their third game scheduled for sometime Saturday. At only 25 minutes per half, the games at MTOC are faster paced than those during the regular season.
Fellow Coastal League team Pembroke is also attending MTOC as a wild card pick. Halifax-Carver and Pembroke had a bit of a rivalry this season with Halifax-Carver’s only loss of the season occurring during the first meeting of the teams. The second face-off ended in a tie. Of the 13 goals Halifax-Carver gave up this season, more than half of those were to Pembroke. While Halifax-Carver and Pembroke will start the tournament in different groups, it is possible that they could meet again during the semi-final or final rounds.
In response to what made him the proudest of his team this year, Coach Jim Coombe said, “They play together. They’re good sportsmen; they don’t do a lot of pushing, they play aggressively but they play within the rules. They play their positions and they play them well and they work together as a team.” Coombe also highlighted the importance of their center midfielder. “The heart and soul of our team is Gabe Pacheco; he’s where the offence starts and where the defense ends,” Coombe explained. Pacheco, who rarely comes off the field for Halifax-Carver, was called up to the varsity team at Silver Lake this past fall during the state tournament.
Regarding strategy, the Halifax-Carver team plays a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-2-1-3 formation. Benjamin Coombe and Thomas Czarniak have provided solid defense from the center back positions this season.
The offense has also come through, keeping pressure on the other teams. As Coombe explains, “When we have all three guys up front who are very good players aggressively on the ball, that forces the other team to at least keep some of their better guys back so hopefully they can’t attack as much. It has worked so far.”
Time will tell if this strategy will work against the best of the best this weekend, but just being invited to attend the MTOC for the first time should give this team and the towns of Halifax and Carver plenty to smile about.