After many deep postseason runs that ended too soon, the New Bedford boys’ soccer team finally broke through in 2010, capturing the Division 1 South sectional en route to an appearance in the state championship where it succumbed to the Ludlow dynasty, 4-1.
The 2011 season was not on par with seasons of yore for the Whalers, but despite their struggls they arrived in Eastham for their final game of the regular season against Nauset, with an opportunity to reach the postseason with a win.
But the defending Division 1 EMass champions stood on the sidelines in shock as the final seconds of their season ticked ticked down to zero with the score showing 2-1 in favor of the Warriors.
A typical power in the south, New Bedford stumbled through the 2011 season and did not make the postseason tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
“They knew going into the last game of the season that they could be a part something they didn’t want to be,” said coach John Macoroco, now in his 13th season at the helm. “They took it to heart.”
And at the start of the 2012 season, the Whalers wasted no time in putting that heartache into their work on the field, as they rolled to an 11-1-2 mark.
The will also not test fate this time around by leaving things undone until their final game of the season as they have already clinched a postseason berth.
They’ve blown teams out, they’ve won the close ones, and they have showed that they are more than capable of turning the tides and coming back when they are down.
“They always say that something good comes from something bad,” said Macoroco. “We had a young, inexperienced group last year and they were thrown to the wolves. I knew we had the talent, but we just did not have the experience.”
After scoring only 19 goals during last season’s 7-8-3 campaign, they have already netted 42 goals and are well in range of the 53 goals scored by the 2010 championship team.
“There are a lot of similarities between this team and our championship team two years ago,” said Macoroco. “We have a potent offense, our defense bends but never breaks and I know that we look to punish teams by controlling the ball. We want to take them out mentally.”
Their opponents certainly can’t score if they don’t have the ball and the Whalers have allowed only seven total goals through 13 games.
Senior Jonathan DaCosta has been an unlikely standout in net for the Whalers after playing his junior season with the junior varsity.
DaCosta was not expected to start in net coming into the season, but his intensity and work ethic earned him the position.
“He showed us that he was our guy,” said Macoroco. “He has the full support of all of our guys and I think that has really helped him get comfortable back there. He has been great for us.”
Their only loss came in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of neighboring Dartmouth, which scored two second half goals after being down, 1-0.
The Whalers paid Dartmouth back last week when they did exactly the same thing after finding themselves trailing, 1-0, early in the second half.
The usual suspects came through offensively for the Whalers, with junior Klisman Sousa (11 goals this season) knotting the game at 1-1 and senior Osla DeBrito (13 goals) scoring the winner with 16 minutes remaining, handing the Indians their only first of the season.
“The guys were ready to go, no doubt,” said Macoroco. “[Dartmouth] is a hard place to play and and we adjusted well to the conditions. It was pretty special to be able to give them their first loss because they knocked us from the ranks of the unbeatens earlier.”
With wins like that. the 2011 season is already a distant memory for the Whalers. The 2012 team has set out to join the ranks of all the other great teams that have trampled over their opponents.
After that forgettable season a year ago, some might say they already have.
Games of the week
No. 1 Masconomet vs. No. 20 Pentucket, Monday, 3:45 p.m. — Big rematches are the order of the week and the top-ranked Chieftains will look to swat away the pesky Sachems, who held Masco scoreless in a season opening draw. Only one game separates these Cape Ann foes, so a win is vital for both.
No. 10 North Andover vs. No. 8 Lowell, Tuesday, 6 p.m. — The Merrimack Valley Large (Lowell) and Small (North Andover) leaders are running away with their respective conferences, but not from each other. The Knights handed the Red Raiders their only loss on the season, 2-1, in the season opener.
No. 12 BC High vs. No. 4 St. John’s Prep, Wednesday, 4 p.m. — The Eagles of St. John’s Prep can cap a perfect season in the Catholic Conference and earn their third straight league title with a win. The Eagles of BC High will do what it takes to ensure that does not happen and in the process can earn a share of the league championship.
Coyle & Cassidy vs. Bishop Feehan, Thursday, 3:45 p.m. — The winner of this game wins the Eastern Athletic Conference. The Warriors took the first match between these two earlier this month.
No. 7 Concord-Carlisle vs. No. 9 Acton-Boxborough, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. - Almost a week after these two teams tied, 0-0, the Dual County League Large (A-B) and Small (C-C) standings leaders will face off once more.