Published November 13, 2019


DANVERS — “Was Lynnfield’s goal a fluke?” asked a latecomer to the No. 10 Pioneer boys’ soccer team’s Div. 3 North semifinal game against No. 3 Watertown at St. John’s Prep on Monday.

At the time, the Pioneer defense was clawing its way to halftime, doing everything possible to hang on to a 1-0 lead against a relentless Raider attack.

The answer was no. Tommy Buston’s header, a flick off a Luke Martinho throw-in that found the Watertown net about 17 minutes into the half, was a well-executed set play that the Pioneers have been practicing and succeeding at all year.

It’s just that seeing a 9-8-1 Cape Ann League team leading a 12-4-2 Middlesex League Freedom Division champion was, well, odd.

Even when the final whistle blew, with Lynnfield holding tight to a 2-1 victory, it felt surreal.

“We’ve been counter-punching teams a lot this year. We came in at 9-8-1 so we are what we are, we aren’t a juggernaut,” said Lynnfield head coach Brent Munroe. “We knew we had to defend like crazy, hope we can put one or two in and maybe get a little bit of luck and that’s exactly how it went.”

Defending like crazy from the first minute to about the 85th was the entire back line, led by junior goalkeeper Dante Gesamondo and his 15 saves. It seemed more like 40.

In addition to strong work from defenders like Martinho, Alejandro Lynch, Jake Mallett and Jack Bird, the Pioneers were just too locked in to lose.

After freshman Alex Gentile sent the Pioneer faithful to another decibel with his header goal off a free kick from fellow freshman Henry Caulfield with about 20 minutes left, Lynnfield buckled down again.

DANTE GESAMONDO had a career’s worth of highlight reel saves to lead the Pioneers to a 2-1 win over Watertown in the D3N semifinals on Monday. Pictured, the junior follows through on a one-handing diving stop off a second half free kick. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Gesamondo made enough diving saves to impress a Navy Seal on this Veteran’s Day.

The most spectacular was a one-handed punch while sprawling out to his left on a free kick from just outside of the box. It was his second diving stop on a free kick in the half.

Nicholas DiPace scored for Watertown in stoppage time, but it was too late. Gesamondo and the Pioneer defense had already won.

“We could have lost any of our games this postseason if Dante wasn’t awesome,” said Munroe. “He’s been fantastic all year. We talk about it during timeouts – we have the best goalie on the field.”

Gesamondo’s first save on a free kick in the second was a direct shot even closer to the box, this time from the left side of the field. Tommy Hauser cleared the rebound away.

Gentile first got the crowd going by drawing a foul on the left sideline. He was clearly a gamer, but clearly a freshman, working against Watertown’s older, faster and stronger defense.

He clearly didn’t care.

Caulfield stepped up and played a perfect ball aimed directly to his good friend. Gentile flew into it and fired the header in.

It ended up being the game winner.

“They were going to spend 80 percent of the game in our end no matter what the score was but it was a lot easier to do it with a lead because you know if you give one up you’re still going to be in it right to the end,” said Munroe.

In-between the Gentile and Gesamondo heroics, Lynnfield’s tough, physical back line, many of whom rocking Ninja Turtle-style headbands, said Cowabunga to the semi’s as they’re off once again to the D3N Finals to meet top-seeded Bedford on Saturday, 1 p.m. at Manning Field in Lynn.

“We didn’t really have an identity all season, we were just scraping to get in,” said Munroe. “We’re young, we’re pretty inexperienced. To be honest, if we lost today, I think most of the kids would have been ok with it so winning was extra special.”

A fluke? No.

One of the most exciting playoff games in Pioneer soccer history? Yes.

Beat Northeast in quarterfinals

In the quarterfinal round of the Division 3 North state tournament on Nov. 7, the Lynnfield High boys’ soccer team beat host Northeast Tech 3-1 at Wakefield High’s Landrigan Field.

The game was played in a pouring rainstorm that got harder as it went along.

With that victory, the 10th-seeded Pioneers improved to 11-8-1. Meanwhile, second-seeded Golden Knights ended the year at 13-4-2.

“They are a very talented team,” said Pioneers head coach Brent Munroe, as the Knights won the Commonwealth Athletic Conference Large division title this fall. “They play different than anybody we play in our league and present a big challenge.”

Lynnfield was able to capitalize on their corner kicks as two of the three goals came off of them.

“We thought that we would have the advantage on set plays,” said Munroe.

Just 2:05 into the game, the Pioneers struck first as Tommy Hauser scored. Henry Caulfield took the corner kick and Tommy Buston got it on the left side and his crossing pass found Hauser who put it home.

The second tally came with 30:45 left as Matheus Saramento scored.

Northeast cut the lead to one with 19:17 left in the opening half as captain Moises Flores used his speed to beat the Pioneer defense and his shot got by goalie Dante Gesamondo.

Early in the second half, Flores almost tied it but Gesamondo (four saves) made a diving stop to preserve the lead.

“He made some great saves when we needed them,” said Munroe, about the junior who improved to 11-8-1. “I was happy for him.”

Lynnfield also came close to scoring with 25:28 remaining as a shot hit the crossbar.

The final goal came with 5:36 left on a corner as Luke Martinho’s corner kick went to Saramento who beat goalie PJ Mundis (five saves) for his second tally of the game.