Red Raiders conclude best season in 15 yrs at D3N Final

Published in the November 17, 2017 edition

THE RED RAIDERS congratulate Shea Champagne for his goal in the second half of the team’s 3-0 victory over Dracut in the D3 North semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 8. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)


MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider soccer team wrapped up their remarkable post season run after a 2-0 loss to Watertown (15-6-1) in the Div. 3 North Finals on Sunday at Manning Field in Lynn. Their joyride season was the best in over a decade and had culminated in a North Final appearance after a 3-0 semifinal win against Dracut on Nov 9.

Fifth seeded Melrose finishes their season at 11-4-6, and wraps up their most prolific playoff run since 2002, when they made an appearance at the Div. 2 North Finals (after earning a sectional title in 2001). 

The Red Raiders battled to 56 minutes of scoreless soccer against #5 seed Watertown before Akif Yagcioglu found the net for the Watertown fifteen minutes in the second half to give Watertown a lead of 1-0. Ultimately, it was a goal Melrose could not come back from. 

“We played really well and I’m proud of them,” said Melrose head coach Dean Serino. “Watertown is a team we’ve beaten, and could beat any day, but we just couldn’t back from that first goal. I think our middle worked well, Dylan [Vienot] Brett [Botto] and Anthony [Bilbilian]. Everyone did their job. It was just one hiccup and the game is out of your hands.”

Melrose and Watertown share a deep rivalry, having twice faced each other in the regular season (swapping 3-0 victories) and sharing the ML league title. But familiarly can be a funny thing. The two teams weren’t able to lend itself to mystery, thus zeroing in on the other flaws. “Familiarity breeds contempt as they say,” says Serino. “Most of the game it felt like it could have gone either way. But I’m proud of our kids, they handled themselves well.” 

Melrose and Watertown remained locked in a stalemate at the half, with Melrose’s Jared Dowell at the net making some impressive saves at the 22:45 and 20:00 marks. Melrose was awarded several corner kick opportunities that were promptly cleared away by an impressive Watertown defense. But Melrose showed tons of fire of their own, with tremendous efforts from Owen Thorsteinsson and Tarekegn O’Neill, who limit movement of a tough attacker, José Mendoza. Melrose fended off a direct kick by Sammy Deossa of Watertown shortly before the half, proving that Melrose’s defense is one of the best in the division. 

The two teams slugged it out again for another 11 minutes of scoreless ball in the second half, until Yagcioglu was fed an outlet pass from from Sammy Desossa within reach of Melrose goalie Jared Dowell, drawn out of the net. Yagcioglu got his foot on it and kicked it in for a goal. With the game 1-0, every possession from then on mattered for Melrose, and they remained determined to get the ball to Shea Champagne, and other Melrose attackers at the net, but fell short.

The Red Raiders’ two best scoring opportunities came under the 10:00 minute in the second half when Sava Vlajkovic fired a shot that drifted just over the cross bars and later, David Kurti, who fired a missle just high of the net. With less than 2:00 to go, Watertown’s Alex Egan found scored a goal again to give Watertown an ultimate 2-0 victory. 

And while it is the end for this talented, senior-heavy Melrose squad, the Raiders go out with their heads high, as being one of the best teams to compete for MHS soccer, joining the ranks of the Ryan Johnson-era soccer teams.  

Says Marino, “I love these kids. I’ve known them since they were little. They grew together as a unit over the years and had fun. And these seniors are going to do well in life, already proving leadership skills. This group of kids and this whole team have set the bar. They won us league titles. It’s been a joyride.” 

Departing this season are: senior captains Will Pzegeo and Pete Wiesen, keeper Jared Dowell, Omar Abbas, Lucien Carbonneau, Shea Champagne, Lance DeSelm, Brett Botto, Sava Vlajkovic, Dylan Vienot, Owen Thorsteinsson, Imad Agoujgal, Stian Forsberg, and David Kurti.