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Boys Soccer Ties NMH and Cushing Academy, Bring Season Total of Ties to Four

Andover Boys Soccer’s draw against NMH marked the return of Christien Meritt PG’22 and featured a spectacular performance from Derek Polanco PG’22 where he made numerous saves which kept Andover in the game.

After a couple of blocked attempts from Garrett Holman ’24, Aldiyar Zhumashov ’22 tucked away the equalizing goal on Wednesday to tie Cushing Academy 2-2, scoring his second goal in three games. The tie followed a previous draw against Northfield Mount Hermon on Saturday. Against NMH, Andover was unable to translate the atmosphere of Family weekend into a goal, resulting in a goalless draw. After these two stalemates, Boys Soccer’s record is now 4-3-4.

According to Giovanni Pagliuca ’23 and Ryan Lam ’24, the team went into the Cushing game confident about their performance. This confidence, however, did not translate to high intensity, leading to an even match.

Pagliuca said, “We knew that Cushing was going to come out strong. They were going to play us as hard as they could, but maybe defend more, and sit back. I expected, though, that we would come out with a victory. I assumed our playstyle would overall be better than theirs and that we would outplay them.”

Lam continued, “We were not focused and our heads were not where they needed to be. We expected so confidently that we would win, that we weren’t prepared mentally to play at the level necessary to win with such ease. That was our biggest fault.”

According to Lam, the lack of practices in the week leading up to the game was an important factor of their performance. Pagliuca noted the harsh weather conditions on Wednesday and the lack of time to prepare before the game.

Lam said, “We didn’t have real practices in the days leading up to the game. Parents weekend, in combination with the bad weather, [did not allow] us to. I think that hurt us a lot in this game. We weren’t really focused, as it had been days since we had a good, intense, practice. Those are entirely necessary to have a good game.”

Pagliuca added, “The weather was cold and rainy, which are both tough conditions for soccer. Our bus was late, so we got out there with only 15 minutes to warm up. Away games in general are always tough, and honestly, the main thing that we battled with today was having a slow start. We weren’t ready nor awake for the game. In the future, we need to be more prepared for the game, mentally, no matter the conditions. We have to play fast from the start.”

Despite the disappointing tie, there were many standout performances. Christien Merritt PG’22 stood out in his offensive role and many other players stepped up in place of those injured, according to Pagliuca. 

“Christien had a good game. He was a bright spot in our offense. Sam Elliot ’22 stepped up and had a good game as well, filling in for Max Huang ’24, at left back. The team did step up after falling behind… Ellis Denby ’24 played well in the midfield. He capitalized with a goal to bring the game back and tie it 1-1. Later on, Zhumashov scored again to equalize, and he had a great game as well. He [scored by] running down from the midfield and finishing. The goal had a large impact on the game, and honestly, saved it,” said Pagliuca.

Lam continued, “Christien was able to bring the ball up well, and created space for the team. A lot of our guys, also, played out of their position due to injuries. Ethan Hong ’22, our captain, played center back, rather than on the wing. Nic Lam ’22 stepped up after not practicing for four weeks. He started today, and played well.”

Although the team was disappointed in their performance, it looks to use this experience as a chance to improve its shortcomings and ensure a good game this weekend, according to Pagliuca. Specifically, the team hopes to hone in on its focus and play with high intensity. 

“Everyone on the team must, as individuals, lock in before games. We must be able to step up to the occasion, and, as our coach said, ‘forget the name on the front of the jersey of our opponent.’ We must always play with 100 percent intensity, no matter who we are up against. That’s a big thing. Treating every opponent equally important, like they can beat us. We need to play with high intensity from the start,” said Pagliuca.

Boys Soccer will face Deerfield away on Saturday.

Editor’s Note: Ryan Lam ’24 is a Business Associate for The Phillipian.