PKN, ABB Lead as Playoffs Set to Begin

The sun was shining brightly, the sky clear, non-migratory birds twittered in the branches of the bare trees surrounding legendary Raferty Field as the Cluster athletes took to the pitch for the last two games of the regular season. The final few days of the cluster regular season were action-packed, fraught with injury, victory, and heartbreak. These players, these athletes, who just two short months ago were strangers, have come together to form something greater than the sum of their parts. Pine Knoll came in to the final week with a 1.5 game lead over rival Abbot, and held onto its lead, tying Flagstaff and beating South by a substantial margin. Those connected to the organization suffered a scare Monday when keeper Simon Keyes ’06 collided head on with Flagstaff’s indomitable Ben Feng ’07 The game was stopped and both players were sent to Isham. Keyes’ availability for Friday’s semi-final match will be a game-time decision, while Feng is probably out for the rest of the season. Elsewhere, Abbott gained a half a game by beating perennial underdogs WQS and the lower squad TNT, which continued an almost season-long losing streak, dropping two to WQN and ABB. According to TNT striker Zack Johnson ’08, the score of the second game was “28,000 to 0. We couldn’t have beaten them with nukes.” WQS, whose offense and defense have been stale for most of the season, benefited greatly from the return of injured midfielder Elliot Wall ’07, who said, after leading the team to a tie against Abbot, “It’s just good to be back uniform. I miss these guys and I’m glad to be a part of their lives again.” Hoping for a resurgence this week was WQN, which dropped three of the past four coming into Monday but was able to recover with an impressive victory against TNT WQN went on to lose a heartbreaking season-ender to traditional rival FLG. WQN, the defending champion, has had a tough year after the loss of cluster superstar Ned Henningsen ’05 and the European Squad, Julian Dames ’05 and Yannik Jannin ’05. However, North has been able to get by on vital contributions by veteran mid-fielders Mike Monaco ’06 and Julia Littlefield ’06, as well as rookies Alex Wong ’07, Katsuya Todoroki ’07 and journeyman Rohan Hooda ’07. The standings for the end of the season are as follows: PKN, ABB, FLG, WQN, TNT, WQS. On Thursday, WQN will face TNT, and the winner of that game will face a well-rested PKN on Friday. The season series between WQN and TNT is 3-0 in North’s favor, so look for Lower-Killers Ford Anderson ’06, Sarah Linnemann ’06 and Jeff Bakkensen ’06 to tear holes through TNT’s vulnerable back line. Vegas has it going: North 4, TNT 2. In the other quarterfinal matchup, FLG will take on a much improved WQS team. As recently as a week ago, the betting line had FLG winning by 4, but with the addition of Wall and loss of Feng, it’s anyone’s game. Expect strong offense from lefty sensation Andrew Ostroff ’06, as well as fight and hustle from Peter Dignard ’07, and the force that is Justin Lee ’06. South will rely on the fantastic footwork of veteran Sam Cartmell ’06 and Luke Cahill ’06 in goal. PKN and ABB both have byes, and will be well rested to face the quarterfinal winners on Friday. The winners of those games will face each other under the lights next Friday. Like last year’s matchup of WQN and FLG, it should be a fight to the finish.