THE HORNETS won their first round matchup, 3-1 over North Middlesex at home on Monday night. No. 15 NR traveled to No. 2 Dedham for a Round of 16 game on Wednesday night after press time. The winner will play the winner of No. 10 Martha’s Vineyard vs. No. 7 Dover-Sherborn in the Div. 3 quarterfinals. (Eric Evans Photo)

Travel to Dedham in round two

NORTH READING — In the second year of the Statewide tournament format, in which one of the selling points was diversification of opponents, somehow, out of the 65 teams statewide in Division 3, North Reading with the No. 15 seed drew the same exact team they played in the Round of 32 last year: No. 18 North Middlesex Regional.

Last year, the Hornets were the No. 22 seed and North Middlesex was No. 11 and the Hornets pulled off the upset on the road. This year, the roles were flipped. North Reading earned the better seed and the home game on Monday night and North Middlesex was looking for the upset.

The Hornets got started quickly and had a chance to score early when Max Gulino intercepted a pass by the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, the defense regrouped quickly and the chance was snuffed out.

However, in the 12th minute, the Hornets put a ball over the top of the defense looking for Josh Stanieich. It looked like the Patriots defense had this chance covered but Stanieich slithered around and past a defender and clipped the ball past the onrushing keeper to himself and had nothing but a wide open goal in front of him.

The leading goal scorer in Hornet history wasn’t ever going to miss this chance, making it 1-0 with the assist to Finn Rodger.

Less than 10 minutes later, Matt Fleury collected a throw in from Gavin Wesley and slipped a pass to Rob Corvino who took a great first touch that split the two center backs. Once he was past the defense, Corvino calmly tucked the ball inside the near post to extend the lead to 2-0.

JOSH STANIEICH celebrates his second goal of the game with a nod to the NRHS student section during Monday night’s state tournament victory over North Middlesex. (Courtesy Photo)

North Middlesex didn’t go away. They scored on a free kick deep on the left wing when they whipped in a driven ball to the near post that was headed home.

The second half started with North Reading taking control of the game with some strong passing. The constant possession took its toll on the North Middlesex defenders.

Eventually, the Hornets wore down the Patriots’ legs and with 13 minutes left in the game, Stanieich got behind a defender at midfield, beat the covering defender down the left wing and got back to the inside where he calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper for his 20th goal of the season.

That wrapped up the game and sent the Hornets on to the round of 16 to face the No. 2 seed Dedham, played on Wednesday night after press time. The winner will head to the state quarterfinals where they will meet the winner of No. 10 Martha’s Vineyard vs. No. 7 Dover-Sherborn on Saturday.

“This was a good effort,” said head coach Mark Bisognano. “Nate Miller played very well in the back and obviously Stanieich had a great game. We got a great effort from Max Gulino as well. When Max and Josh are applying pressure to defenses with their speed and their ability to take on defenders 1v1 it’s tough for defenses to cope.

“We know Dedham is going to be a tough opponent. They are 16-0-3 playing in one of the toughest soccer leagues in the state. We have our work cut out for us, but if the team continues to believe in itself and each other anything can happen.”