BOW – The Spartans had already beaten Bow once this season. Still, the Pembroke boys’ soccer team felt like it had something to prove during Friday’s rematch between the two Division II powers.
“This was a big game for us and we came out wicked hard,” Pembroke senior Damon Smith said. “We knew these guys were in first and definitely a team to beat.”
That effort led to two first-half goals, including a wicked one from Nolan Sykes, and eventually to a 2-1 win over the Falcons. The decision pushes Pembroke to 11-1-1 and into second place in D-II, behind only Windham (11-1-0). The loss drops Bow (10-2) to third place and snaps its eight-match winning streak which began after a 1-0 loss on Sept. 1 at Pembroke.
Facing the only team to beat them should have given these Falcons plenty of motivation, but that’s not what their coach saw in the first half.
“I laid into them pretty good at halftime, but we didn’t deserve to be on the same field as Pembroke in that first half. It was ridiculous,” Bow Coach George Pinkham said. “This (Bow) team is a good team, but it can be a top-four team with a chance to win a championship if they bring that passion and energy with them. But tonight Pembroke was an excellent team, and that’s why they beat us, and they deserved it, no question.”
One of the Bow players who did play with high energy from start to finish was sweeper Ben Guertin, and he was needed in the game’s first minute to defend the hungry Pembroke attack. The Spartans kept pushing in the opening minutes and nearly scored on a pretty combination play from Cam Rivard, Matt Ferguson and Connor Manteau, but Manteau’s shot clanged off the post.
Pembroke eventually broke through in the 17th minute when Smith was quick to a loose ball and headed it past a charging Joe Rychwalski, Bow’s keeper.
“We’ve been trying to do these looping runs, and that’s what I did, and we had a guy put it in and it was just little bit short,” Smith said. “But the defender flicked it up and I was just there to put it right in.”
The Falcons nearly tied things up in the 25th minute when Chris Besho set up Max Elsasser, two more Bow players who brought passion for most of the game, but Elsasser’s shot went off the post.
The Spartans countered off that miss, with Josh Dion driving the charge. He eventually found Manteau, who fed it to Smith, who delivered a pretty cross to the far post. The finish, however, was even prettier as Sykes volleyed it back across the goal mouth and into the side netting, leaving Rychwalski no chance.
“He had a hat trick in practice this week, so he’s been stepping it up,” Pembroke Coach Peter Bisson said of Sykes, a junior sub for the Spartans. “He was a striker at JV last year and so he came up here and he started playing (outside midfield) this year and I feel like every game he’s getting a little bit more confidence and knowing that position better.”
That 2-0 lead stood until halftime, but what changed in the second half was Bow’s energy. After watching the Spartans control possession for the first half, and hold a 5-2 shot advantage, the Falcons took it over in the second half and outshot the Spartans in those second 40 minutes, 5-3.
Smith admitted that his Pembroke team got “a little comfortable” with its lead, but the Spartans also showed a team-wide toughness on defense. Pembroke keeper Tyler Smith, one of the best in the state, was quick off his line and the back three of Justin Smith, Jake Mavity and Andrew Nedeau were physical and smart. But the Spartans also got great defensive work from midfielder Kobie Valdes and Ferguson, a forward with an incredible work rate.
“I thought we played well as a team every way today,” Bisson said.
The Falcons finally broke through in the 71st minute when Besho put a free kick to the far post that was headed home by Chris Gallier, Bow’s senior captain midfielder who was at the heart of his team’s improved second-half possession.
After that, Pembroke tightened the defensive screws for the final nine minutes to finish the game and claim its seventh straight win.
“I’m very happy with where we are as a team,” Damon Smith said. “We work really hard, so this feels good.”