NORTH ADAMS, Mass - It’s the right time of year to start playing your best soccer.
Thursday afternoon, the McCann Tech Hornets delivered a dominating and complete performance on both sides of the ball, as they rolled to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Hampden Charter Wolves. The Hornets scored all three goals in the first half by controlling possession and field position with an aggressive and relentless attack, and Andrew Levesque recorded the shutout in goal.
“The first half we passed pretty well to each other diagonally, we made runs and we finished very well,” said freshman Ivan Liang, who had a goal and an assist. “Their defense was really flat, so we basically just made runs and they stayed back, so we weren’t offsides at all. So we just made throw balls that went through and we made many crosses.”
McCann improves to 8-5-1 and is now on the verge of clinching a Western Mass playoff berth.
Coming off a 2-1 loss to Westfield Tech, the Hornets looked to deliver a full game with the same level of effort and intensity in which they closed out the loss to the Tigers. They answered the call and did exactly that, firing 25 shots on goal while holding their opponents scoreless.
“They wanted to be the aggressors, and it showed,” head coach John Bresett said. “This is the team that played against Hoosac Valley, and they wanted to win. The result stands for itself. That was what they wanted to get, and they got it.”
McCann got the scoring going with the deciding goal with 31:26 remaining in the first half. Omar Uqdah fed a pass to Liang, who then made a great feed to Nick LaForest, who tapped it past the keeper for the score.
Just more than five minutes later the Hornets struck again. This time LaForest fed the ball into Liang right in front of the net, and he made it 2-0 with another strike past the keeper.
With just under three minutes left in the first, McCann found the back of the net one last time to close out the scoring. Evan McAllister delivered a nice lead into the right corner for Matt Bailey, who then bent a kick into the far left corner of the net with 2:56 left before halftime.
“The team has grown a lot since I first coached them last year,” Bresett said. “Last year everybody was trying to find their own footing and where to play the position, and the chemistry just wasn’t quite there. This year it is a step up; the passing is a lot sharper, it’s quicker, they’re stepping out on their cross-balls, which is what we are practicing on, and crossing is also what we practice on and we got some goals off of that. It’s just piecing everything together every single game, and this was by far the most complete game they have played in. I’m very happy about it.”
The Hornets tightened up in the second half to control the play and keep the pressure on. The offense had 11 shots on goal, but were held back from building on the lead thanks to some key saves from Hampden goalie Justin Clarkson. Clarkson had eight saves on the day.
McCann did not lower its guard and allow any comeback hopes. The defense hunkered down and Levesque did not allow any of the nine shots he saw in the second half get by him.
“We’ve focused on keeping mentally awake and prepared and knowing where certain plays are at certain times, because when you are pressing and going forward a lot you are vulnerable to the counter attack. It happened to us a couple of times, but Andrew was awake and then made some great, key saves,” Bresett said.
Levesque recorded nine saves against 17 shots on goal, including several spectacular stops late in the action with the Wolves pressing.
But offense was the defense’s greatest weapon, as much of the action happened down on the other side of the field.
“They capitalized on quick-passing goals and that is what I want to see going forward, because we are very capable of moving the ball around teams,” Bresett said. “They are all a year older and a step up now. This is our most complete game and, going forward, this is my expectation. This is how I want to see them play every single game.”
With the playoffs now a strong possibility, Bresett knows the caliber of play they will need to maintain. All season long the players have responded to challenges, and they seem ready to prove that again.
“We’ve accomplished so much now and we’re one point away from Western Mass. It’s crazy,” Liang said. “It’s crazy to make Western Mass as a freshman, and it’s going to be fun.”
The Hornets have four games remaining needing at least one more victory to seal their playoff hopes. They next play on Monday on the road at Smith Vocational, before hosting Putnam and Mohawk and then closing out at Pioneer Valley Christian Academy.
“We have some tough opponents, and these are the teams we are going to face in the tournament,” Bresett said. “It’s great preparation, and to see them come out and play a team like this like they did in the second half of the Westfield game is putting it all together. This game was a huge swing game. I thought we could sneak away with a win and we dominated for the win. We’re one step closer to the tournament, so hopefully now we make it and hopefully teams will be ready for us.”