By MARC GAGNE
WAKEFIELD — It was the varsity boys’ soccer team’s last game of the regular season last night against Burlington High School and a lot was at stake. The night before, the team tied Stoneham 1-1. They needed a tie or a win against Burlington to automatically qualify for a spot in the state tournament, so the excitement level was high.
Just minutes after the kickoff, Wakefield’s Juan Pablo Correa Chacon scored the first goal of the night, causing the crowd to cheer. Reid Festel had the assist which put the team on top.
Not long after this first goal was scored, Elias Anjim headed the ball over the Burlington goalie’s head for the second score of the night. With this strong start, the Warriors carried themselves with confidence for the rest of the game.
Before the first half ended, Burlington was able to get a goal in on a nice cross from one player to his teammate, who was right in front of the Wakefield goal. The Burlington player shot the ball into the top right corner. Wakefield goalie Matt Sellers dove to save the ball, but it was just out of reach. The second half therefore ended with a 2-1 score.
The next goal for Wakefield was scored by Darragh Casey, who fought through three defenders to kick the ball past the Burlington goalie. Near the end of the game, Wakefield’s Michael Leary had a cross to Correa Chacon, who slid to kick the ball past the Burlington goalie, resulting in the fourth and final goal for Wakefield.
Anjim, Leary, Festel, Lucas Kehoe and Ethan Margolis were some of the Wakefield players who had strong shots during the game and John Faulkner had an assist.
The Wakefield defenders also played incredibly well throughout the whole game, including their defense of a corner kick. Wakefield goalie, Matt Sellers, had many saves, including one on a free kick that was shot to the top right corner. Sellers was able to jump and save this ball and stop Burlington from scoring their second goal.
Head coach Ilir Ujkaj put all of the seniors in the game for the last two minutes to finish out their regular season on the field.
The final score of 4-1 meant that the Wakefield boys’ soccer team would once again make the state tournament and the teammates and coaching staff were thrilled. A win rather than a tie in this game also gives the team a better power ranking, so that they won’t meet as highly ranked of an opponent in the first round. The Warriors were ranked 25th in the latest power rankings for Div. 2, published on Monday. Wakefield has added three points since then.
Coach Ujkaj said that it has been a long, grueling season, with a lot of injuries and sometimes it felt like everything was working against the team. However, he mentioned that the team “had no doubt that we were going to make this tournament.”
The players look forward to finding out who they will be playing.
“The excitement is high, the morale is high,” said Ujkaj.
The Warriors will be in the second half of the bracket for the tournament, so they will theoretically be playing a team that is stronger than them but a lot depends on the power rankings and how other teams are ranked, Coach Ujkaj explained.
Two years ago, the Warriors beat two higher-ranked teams in the tournament on their way to a Div. 2 North semifinal appearance, so anything could happen, the coach noted.
“Right now though, I want to focus on tonight,” Ujkaj said with a smile. “I’m happy…happy for the school, happy for the town and the kids.”