Ryan's Hat Trick Clinches Playoff Spot for 'CanesADAMS, Mass. — It seems that the success of the Hoosac Valley boys' soccer team seems to be going hand and hand with the foot of Nick Ryan lately. The Hurricanes' striker continued his recent scoring spree on Monday night, scoring all three of his team's goals in Hoosac's 3-0 win over rival Drury at Renfrew Field.
There was a time not too long ago when the Hurricanes were struggling to find the back of the net. Camilo Bermudez's club lost three straight games to start the month of October, scoring just one goal in all three of the matches combined. Ryan found his scoring touch by tallying two goals in a win over Wahconah in the next game, however, and since then, both he and his Hoosac teammates have yet to look back.
Ryan scored three more times in the Hurricanes' next two games before Monday's hat trick gave him eight strikes in a four-game span. More importantly, Hoosac won all four of those matches, moving its record from below .500 to 8-5-1 and qualifying for a berth in the Western Mass. playoffs in the process.
"Without a doubt," Bermudez said when asked if his team was playing its best soccer of the season right now. "We're firing on all cylinders. People are playing the positions well individually, the subs are coming up big and Nick Ryan has peaked at the end of the season. That's when you want your striker to peak."
Ryan scored two goals in a dominating first half for the Hurricanes, who outshot the Blue Devils 10-0 in the first 40 minutes of the game. His first goal was a surprising one, as he took a pass from classmate Matt Bresett and lofted a shot on the Drury goal from 35 yards out. Junior goalie Joseph Liporace misjudged the flight of the ball, however, and was shocked to see it sneak under the crossbar to give the hosts a 1-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the game.
"It's being a keeper," Blue Devils head coach Greg Caproni said. "You make some great saves, but no one remembers the great saves because you give up goals. It's a very thankless position. With all the great saves [Joe] made, he made a couple of mistakes, and they were big mistakes. You know, whatever, you move forward from that."
Liporace made six saves in the game but had to deal with plenty more action, as Hoosac gained a 25-3 edge in shots in the game. Ryan's second goal seven minutes later had a higher degree of difficulty than the first one. Junior Shaun Knapp found him with a quick counter-attack pass up the middle, where Ryan beat one defender and touched the ball past Liporace into the left side of the net.
"It's unbelieveable," Bermudez said of Ryan's ability to finish lately. "He's always had that instinct, and now he's just finishing. I think it's a team thing as well. We can move the ball now and actually get him the ball now. It's just good soccer all around."
It's been a tough season for Drury (2-10-2) this year, but the Blue Devils did show noticeable improvement from the first time the two teams met, a 4-0 road win for the Hurricanes. Caproni's squad battled hard in the middle of the field, receiving solid performances from senior Ryan Ouimet, sophomore Sully Boland and eighth-grader Connor Meehan. The Hoosac defense was just solid and in the right position all night, though, holding the visitors to three long-range shots in the second half.
"We squeeze our defense up, so they can't even turn," Bermudez said. "As soon as a guy gets the ball, we're so pushed up that they can't even get possession. That team is good, though. I think in the first half we caught two breaks. We got the chip goal and that breakaway but, besides that, I thought Drury played a good game."
The Devils defense, led by junior Tyler Cote and senior Kodey Bryce, held Hoosac off the board for 53 minutes during the middle of the game, but Ryan had one last goal left in him in the 71st minute. Knapp sent a ball to the left end line that Liporace seemed content to let roll out of bounds. With a Drury defender by his side, Ryan swooped in and blasted a one-time shot across the goal mouth and into the side panel to put the game away.
"We moved the ball, but we just couldn't do it better than them," Caproni said. "Camilo really has his boys working on all octanes on that other side. I'm super happy for those guys because there are some great kids on that other team, and they're really making it happen. It's just tough. We're playing well, but it was not good enough tonight."
The Hurricanes' play was good enough to clinch a playoff spot, something that seemed nearly impossible last season when Hoosac went 1-13-2. A move to the South Division helped the 'Canes get their swagger back, and Bermudez's impact has surely been seen along the way.
"After last year, some of the kids just couldn't believe it," Bermudez said. "Then it was win after win after win and finally they believed. A lot of it is just confidence. It's amazing."
Hoosac next hosts Lee at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, while Drury plays at St. Joe's at 7 p.m. on Friday.