This year marks the third straight year the Oyster River Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team has made it to the championship game, and their second win in that time.
On November 3, 2022 Oyster River’s Boys’ Varsity Soccer team defeated Kingswood High School 1-0 in the NHIAA Division 2 State Championship. Although there were mild concerns due to an earlier loss, the team had a solid game plan and high confidence levels going in, which paid off with their championship victory.
This wasn’t the first time ORHS played Kingswood this year, with that game resulting in a loss due to a call in favor of Kingswood. “I was a little worried that our players might underestimate Kingswood because… they haven’t always been a very strong program, so it was easy to overlook them,” said Jim Thibault, the ORHS Boys’ JV soccer coach.
Despite these concerns, the players were ready and it seemed as if Kingswood was not on their A-game. “We were lined up with our music on and we could just tell that they weren’t as ready as we were,” said Kyle Butts (’23) a goalie for Oyster River.
Lukas Hugel-Sanchez (‘24), an exchange student from Germany who played for the team, said, “I think it was obvious we were going to win from the start.”
Oyster River’s game plan was fairly simple: play to their style. According to Thibault, that involved possession and utilizing the speed on the outside. Another goal was to avoid the “just boot the ball up, and well, Ty Dorrow’s fast, he’ll outrun the kid” scenario, which leaves too much to chance. On defense, the goal was to ensure the team always had the numbers to deal with a counterattack from Kingswood, should they gain possession of the ball.
The game started out with Oyster River going at Kingswood “aggressively, but intelligently” according to Thibault. It was fourteen minutes into the second half when Hunter Perry (’23) scored the first, and only, goal of the match. “You don’t think it’s real at first, but then when the team starts celebrating…you know it’s a real thing. It gives you a lot more motivation to go win the game, not break the lead too,” said Junior Captain John Vittorioso (‘24).
“[As a goalie], it definitely took a lot of pressure off of my shoulders because that’s less that I have to worry about,” said Butts. With Oyster River scoring, if Butts were to let in a goal the game would tie instead of Kingswood having a lead. Additionally, the team was able to focus mainly on possession instead of scoring, farther assisting the goalie.
Oyster River was able to defend against Kingswood for the remainder of the game, securing their championship victory. “As the captain, it made me incredibly proud, proud of everybody ’cause I know that we had had some difficult spots this season,” said Vittorioso.
The players weren’t the only ones celebrating. At a post-season pep-rally, the entire school gathered to celebrate the fall season and cheer for the winning teams. Mark Milliken, the school’s vice principal, had a stake in the outcome, and the entire school watched as the soccer team gave him a mohawk. “Seeing the kids come out and all the different grades mixing together and cheering for the school, I think it’s a good unifying thing… I think it really helps spread a little bit of pride in our school,” said Milliken.
This year the team was very senior-heavy, and it raises a question of the team’s potential next year when those seniors are gone. “I definitely feel like the team has some major improvements to do next year since the main force on the team is actually going to be gone,” said Hugel-Sanchez. However, some of the underclassmen have shown potential.
Vittorioso says, “I really do believe that all the sophomores have been working hard and they believe, and I believe, that they won’t drop the quality that I’ve seen.”
– Marcus Anderson
Image Courtesy of Madelyn Marthouse