MARSHFIELD — The Nauset boys’ soccer team was the model of perfection in 2018.
In a 3-0 win over Arlington in Sunday’s Division 2 final at Marshfield High, the Warriors capped a 23-0-0 season in which they never trailed.
Coach John McCully’s squad even one-upped their last perfect run — 23-0-0 in 2016 — thanks to a championship-game shutout. Though that ’16 edition allowed just that one goal all season.
“There’s nothing like it, it’s unbelievable,” said Avery Santoro, the team’s leading scorer. “From the first game, people didn’t think we’d make it this far. For us to win the championship again, it’s unbelievable.”
In Sunday’s win, Spencer Rushnak netted a goal and had an assist, and Romell Brown and Cormic Parker each scored a goal.
How did they execute a perfect season and tournament, despite losing several key players from last year, including All-American James McCully, the coach’s son?
“We all just worked our [butts] off,” Santoro said. “We trained more in the offseason. We just wanted it more.”
The Warriors opened the scoring after a fairly evenly played opening 20 minutes. In the 23rd, Rushnak, a junior mid, broke into the box and slid a perfect pass over to Parker, who coolly deposited it for the lead.
“I was so happy when I got that into the net, I couldn’t even explain it,” said Parker, a senior midfielder. “It kind of takes off the pressure when you can score early.”
The Warriors dashed any hopes of a second-half resurgence by Arlington (16-4-3). Just three minutes into the new half, Rushnak doubled the lead. After a throw-in, Brown passed the ball to Rushnak at the top of the box and he turned and punched it in low past the goalkeeper.
Nauset put the game out of reach in the 59th minute. The ball was loose near the Arlington goal line and Brown buried it for his second point of the day.
Arlington’s only real pressure came in the first 10 minutes, but the Spy Ponders never got a true scoring chance. Curtis Moore, Nauset’s senior center back, was key to their defensive dominance.
“We’ve got an All-American at center back,” McCully said. “I thought that was the key, because of Arlington’s size. He was dominant.”
Parker said the key to the team’s defensive masterpiece Sunday was “getting balls in the air and just not letting them get into the spots they wanted to get into.”
Arlington, Parker said, was “by far,” the biggest and toughest team they’d seen all year.
“It took us a while to find out who we were . . . but we knew we had something special,” he added. “It just kept going.”
Division 2 girls
Winchester 1, Hopkinton 0 — The final seemed destined for extra time until a Hopkinton handball in the box created a penalty kick for the Sachems with 20 minutes left.
Senior midfielder Grace Casey stepped up for the attempt.
“I just had to take a deep breath and think that I’ve been practicing this,” Casey said. “And that I knew I could do it.”
Casey nailed a shot on the ground just inside the left post, past the outstretched keeper for lone goal, lifting Winchester (22-1-0) to the championship at Marshfield High.
“That’s my spot, my keepers knew I would shoot there,” she said.
The penalty kick was exactly what Winchester needed against a stellar Hopkinton defense.
“Hopkinton (13-4-6) has 17 shutouts this year, and that’s no fluke,” said Winchester coach Rick Emanuel. “We really had trouble penetrating their back line. That penalty kick came at an opportune moment.”
He credited Alexis Hasbrouck, the Hillers’ junior defender, for anchoring the defense and denying his team all game long.
But the defensive plays that will live on in the books were made by the Sachems in the final minutes. Right after Casey’s goal, the Hillers mounted a frenzy of pressure that lasted until the final whistle.
“It was definitely like nothing that we’ve faced before,” Casey said of Hopkinton’s late rally. “It was just hard to match.”
The Hillers came within a few feet of tying the game late, but Casey was there to head the ball out of danger.
“I was front post, and I knew Colleen [Gogolin] our keeper was there but I just headed it out anyways,” she said.
It was the 11th shutout for the Sachems’ tandem of goalies, Gogolin and Annie Costello, who split playing time this year.
Emanuel said he told them to compete to win the starting job, and “I think I’ll let them know the result now.”
Emanuel said he had a feeling this title could be possible “after tryouts.”
“These are just talented players, but first of all their work ethic throughout the season stood out,” he said. “They were rewarded for it, so I’m happy for them.”
Charlie Wolfson can be reached at email@example.com.