Impressive display of defense for Ludlow

WORCESTER, Mass. -- When asked how his Ludlow Lions pulled off a convincing 4-1 win against New Bedford in the Division 1 Boys' State Championship on Friday night, Ludlow head coach Greg Kolodziey rattled off a good response.

“We had the heart of the lion and the heart of the champion.”

It was true that the Lions played with a lot of effort and intensity, but it didn’t hurt that they were able to shut down a potent Whalers offense thanks to a good defensive scheme.

Kolodziey gameplanned specifically on stopping the physicality of New Bedford’s offensive weapons, but also focused on keeping his Ludlow players in the same groove they had been in all season.

“We wanted to disrupt their rhythm,” Kolodziey said. “We saw them play their semi-final and if they get in a good rhythm their very dangerous -- and we knew they would do damage. “

“We knew that they had big guys…but we knew that the best plan was the way that we play.” Sergio Rodrigues said about the strategy. “We like to go through the wings and beat them when we cross it, so we carried it out tonight and killed them.”

The Lions came out clicking and it seemed that in the first half the team kept gaining momentum with every score. Ludlow led 3-0 after sophomore Kyle Tomas scored off of a free kick from Sergio Rodrigues before halftime.

New Bedford clearly did not have an answer to Ludlow’s attack, but -- more importantly -- couldn’t keep pace with the Lions because of a stingy defense.

Whalers’ captain Fernando Baptista, who is well-known for a bruising playing style, was held relatively quiet until the 43rd minute, when he delivered a 30-yard strike past Ludlow keeper Stephen Lopes. However that is about all the noise that Baptista made in the state final thanks to a good Ludlow defensive strategy.

“We knew that Baptista was going to try and control the game and we had a special kid that was up for the task to get him off of his game,” Kolodziey said about Baptista.

Junior midfielder Shaun Mello had the task of marking Baptista, and dealt well considering the circumstances. Mello and the Lions center backs guarded Baptsita and striker Felipe Ponte throughout the match.

“I give all the credit to the [defense],” Lopes said. “They made my job super easy tonight. It was one of the best games they played all year.”

“We knew what we were up against when we saw New Bedford play,” Kolodziey said. “We knew we were going to need a monumental mistake-free effort to win this game…we stuck to the gameplan, built on it, and came away with a win.”