By Dillon Mulhern
On November 7, 2015 Oyster River Boys Soccer became the New Hampshire Division II State Champions for the first time since 2003. A well placed corner kick by Griffin Luczek (‘16) and a subsequent strike of the ball by Colin Tucker (‘16) lead to the only goal in the championship game.
“I was surprised that I actually scored the goal on a very good defense and goalie. I was excited because I knew we were going to win after all the work me and my team had put in during the season and the offseason,” said Collin Tucker.
With 23 minutes to tie the game, Portsmouth became frantic but Oyster River’s defence held strong until the final whistle. Then the team converged onto goalkeeper Liam Conrad in a torrent of white.
“A lot went into getting us to this moment where we came up short last year,” said Jake Baver, the boys soccer assistant coach.
Training for the next soccer season begins weeks after the previous ends, with 6 a.m. strength workouts and futsal. Futsal, which is a modified form of soccer played with five players per side on a small indoor court, helped the team work on their touches and ball movement. “I think all the events Charlie and the rest of his coaching staff planned helped us stay in shape and keep our touch up to standards. I think futsal during the winter helped the most out of everything we did,” said Tucker.
In the summer, the team is out on Tibbetts field playing pickup or participating in one of the many mini-camps under the beaming sun.
“People like to come out, love to play soccer. It’s not like oh I have to play soccer after school. They come out and they love it. It’s the thing that keeps them going,” said Griffin Luczek (‘16), one of the varsity teams captains.
Another aspect that helped the team get where they were was team bonding. “When we hangout it’s not really individual groups, it’s more like everybody’s there. We’re all hanging out in the same room, everybody’s communicating and talking,” said Luczek. Through soccer the team has become a tight knit group of friends.
“Playing with these guys for so long has really helped me know what these guys are going to do on the field from a very young age, has helped me to understand how to play with them. I don’t think we’d be as good a team if we weren’t as good as friends as we are, and we won’t be as good of friends if we hadn’t been playing together for so long,” said goalkeeper Liam Conrad (16’).
The team’s main success has come from the style of play, which was developed in 2010 by head coach Charlie Crull and Greg Tucker. “We want to be a high pressure team and be a possession based team. Trusting our teammates is crucial as well,” said Luczak.
“Charlie has been trying to emphasize it for the past couple of years and since we have a lot of returning players I think it translated this year,” said Andy Mcquade (‘16), one of the boys team’s captains. Last year’s team was the first team that had been trained with this style of play all four years of high school. In addition an effort has been made to try and integrate this style earlier with local ORYA teams.
A large fan base showed up for the Championship game with ticket sales surpassing 1,600. Though fan support is helpful, Baver says it’s not why they got here. “We don’t play for the fans. That’s been a point of emphasis for this year. The reason that we are here is not because we have a loud fan section, it’s because we work really hard all year around to get here. It wasn’t done for the fans it was done for us,” he continues “For Oyster River there’s no football team so this is the fall sport, so it’s usually strong. And it’s nice to see the community rally around us but for the most part success will bring fans.”
Last years upset at the finals helped them mentally prepare for this years Championship.
In an interview before the Championship Captain Mitchell Harling remembered last years outcome, “All it is is motivation, we all know how fortunate that we are to get back here again. I don’t expect us to repeat last years shortcoming.”
Fans hooped and hollered from the sidelines, but officials hold back the crowd from joining their victors. Finally the membrane between team and fans was broken, and they celebrated as one; lifting the carved wood and metal plaque above the gleaming faces.
All of the preseason work, morning workouts and relentless training has lead the team to the ultimate prize.