By Joyce Erekson
The Lynn City Soccer Tournament championship trophy has found a new home on Goodridge Street.
The English High boys rode a spectacular game in net by tournament Most Valuable Player Billy Allen to a 3-1 win over St. Mary’s Saturday at Manning Field.
This was no small feat for the Bulldogs. The Spartans made it to the Division 4 state final last year before losing to Monson. English didn’t qualify for the postseason, but coach Kerry King knew he had some talent.
“We knew we had a good team last year, but we struggled early,” King said. “I’m really proud of the kids. They worked their butts off all summer for this particular reason. They wanted to be city champions.”
The Spartans found themselves playing catch-up all afternoon. English took a 1-0 lead when Jason Deleon scored with 15:45 left in the first half. The lead held up through the half, but less than than two minutes into the second half, the Spartans’ tied the game on a goal by Thiago DeOliveriero.
It was starting to look like this one might be heading to penalty kicks, but with 8:11 left in the game, English’s Nuhi Xhemajli headed one home to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. With time for a comeback fading fast, St. Mary’s ratcheted up its attack and if not for the acrobatics of Allen in net, the strategy might have worked.
Allen made a couple of huge stops down the stretch including one off a point blank shot by St. Mary’s Chris Garcia that he just got a foot on to knock away. He also had a perfectly timed leap to pluck another one out of the sky before it found the back of the net.
“This was a hard-fought game on both sides,” King said. “Fortunately we have a great keeper behind us and a defense that played its heart out.”
King said Allen, who split some games in net as a sophomore last year, is an unbelievable goalie.
“He’s a tough competitor and a great athlete,” King said. ‘He’s tough as nails. He listens. He follows directions. He made some incredible saves.”
Allen was was not expecting to take on the tournament MVP award.
“That’s not really what I woke up thinking was going to happen,” Allen said, crediting the defense with doing a great job..
“Everybody was composed. Nobody was freaking out. Everybody had their heads on straight. It was great,” Allen said.
The strangest goal of the day came with under two minutes remaining in the game when the Spartans had loaded up on offense to try and tie the game. English’s Muhammed Diallo got a foot on the ball from 40-plus yards out and he lofted it towards the goal. The ball sailed over St. Mary’s keeper Rich Mateo, who had also moved up, and into the net to give the Bulldogs a little breathing room at 3-1
“He saw the goalie out. We were trying to run the clock,” King said. “I don’t know if he actually tried to score a goal. We just wanted to put the ball down in the corner and press them.”
The last time English won the Lynn City Soccer championship was 2010. The tournament was started in 2006 by former St. Mary’s athletic director Paul Athanasiadis. Current AD Jeff Newhall took it over in 2007 and it has been a tradition ever since.