The St. John’s Shrewsbury boys’ soccer team had to navigate not only a slew of modifications related to COVID-19 and an abbreviated game and practice schedule, but also a new, challenging conference. In their first year in the Catholic Conference, the Pioneers came away with the league championship after they edged out host BC High, 2-1, on Wednesday night.
It was windy with temperatures in the teens, there were a bare minimum number of spectators, and everyone wore masks and refrained from high fives. But it was a hard-won championship for the Pioneers (7-2-3).
“All I can say is we did it,” said senior attacker Alvin Tulasi, who starred in Wednesday’s season finale with a goal and an assist. “As coach [Michael Hughes] says, it’s ‘Uphill together.’ We finished the season strong.”
Tulasi opened the scoring for the Pioneers less than 10 minutes in. An indirect kick came soaring through the box from the far sideline and he found himself with a wide open chance on the left side. He buried it for his third goal of the year.
Hughes, who stepped into the role on an interim basis shortly before the season, said the win came with gratitude for the chance to have a season of any kind, let alone a championship campaign.
“I’m just happy for these boys, that the seniors finished their four years here with joy,” Hughes said. “The ability to adapt, to be humble, to work hard, to learn, that’s really what our society is needing to learn during this pandemic. It has taught these boys a lesson for life. You’ve got to be humble enough to adapt. It’s been a joy.”
Sophomore forward Jorgo Karamelo gave the Pioneers breathing room by finishing off a net-front scramble midway through the third quarter to make the score 2-0. The Eagles (8-4) made a final push, scoring with five minutes left to make it 2-1, but the Pioneers fended off a frenzied attack to seal the victory.
“I’m proud of the guys, we finished 8-4, which I’m pretty proud of considering all that we went through this season with the COVID rules and everything,” said BC High coach Billy Ryan. “And I hand it to Shrewsbury, they came in here and they brought great, great quality. This league is in such a great place. Every team has quality, every team was phenomenal this year.”
The Eagles’ goal was scored by senior Aidan Greene, setting off a mad dash to the finish with less than five minutes left in the game. It proved to be the game’s final goal, though, and the Eagles’ comeback attempt came up short.
St. John’s, said Tulasi, “just fought it through. It wasn’t easy. It really wasn’t an easy season. But we did it.”
Billerica 1, Haverhill 1 — Colton Jacques scored for host Billerica in the Merrimack Valley Conference draw.
Duxbury 3, Hingham 1 — After dropping the first set, the top-seeded Dragons rallied to outlast the second-seeded Harborwomen in a Patriot Cup semifinal at Duxbury High. Hingham flew out to a 16-6 edge to start the action.
The Dragons nearly rallied, but the Harborwomen prevailed, 25-20. Duxbury used the momentum it gained late in the first set to seize the second, 25-22, and even the match.
Mackenzie Proukou, Katie Quilty, and freshman Agnes Buell all contributed in a 25-19 third-set win for the Dragons, and Duxbury held off the Harborwomen 25-23, in the fourth behind Emma Ruel, Nora Buell, and Sarah Leonard’s strong play.
“We just focused on playing with heart,” said Proukou, a junior captain. “If you’re going to go out, go out aggressively. I really do think it was a team effort.”
Next up for the undefeated Dragons (13-0) is Quincy, the top seed out of the Fisher Division, in the championship at a time and location yet to be determined.
Lowell 3, Dracut 0 — Senior Mia Ly delivered 11 kills and sophomore setter Melodee Pin contributed 21 assists along with two kills, and defensive specialist Boutsy Ses had 14 digs and five aces for the Red Raiders (5-6) in their season-ending win.
Bishop Fenwick 4, St. Mary’s 2 — Senior captain Paige Littlehale netted a pair of goals ands set up another as Fenwick (5-3-2) advanced to the Catholic Central Cup final on Saturday.
Lexington 1, Winchester 0 — After dropping a 7-2 setback to Winchester on Saturday, the Minutemen responded with the shutout victory in the second half of the back-to-back. Senior Lia Veit, with Allison Libby assisting, scored the lone goal and sophomore Sophie Ortyl made nine saves in goal.
Bishop Feehan 2, Bishop Stang 0 — Junior Ava Detorie converted a cross from senior Francesca Yanchuk for a 1-0 lead and Yanchuk doubled the margin on a direct kick with 3:10 left in the third quarter as the Shamrocks (13-0) soared into the final of the Catholic Central League final.
Globe correspondent Trevor Hass contributed to this report.