SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- A casual observer may have viewed No. 3 Shrewsbury’s 12-9 win over No. 14 Nashoba as routine, but Colonials head coach Nate Skermont knew better.
“Nashoba is a Number 14 seed,” Skermont said of the teams’ Division 2 Central first-round tournament game Wednesday. “No way they play like a 14 seed, no way we expected them to play like a 14 seed … We knew what we were in for and we knew they were going to keep fighting.”
But, as talented as Nashoba is, the game had the look of a rout early on.
Shrewsbury (16-5) built a 7-1 lead midway through the second quarter, led by senior Cam Kerr’s two goals and two assists. Shrewsbury’s balanced attack exploited Nashoba’s zone defense, with five different Colonials finding the back of the net before the Chieftains offense woke up.
With less than two minutes to play in the first half, Nashoba senior Kyle Elkins put Nashoba on his back, first finding junior Mike d’Entremont on the doorstep, then fighting through a double-team himself to tighten the score to 7-3 at the half.
Elkins scored again just eight seconds into the second half, swinging momentum in Nashoba’s favor, but it would be short-lived. Joey Buduo answered for the Colonials, and Shrewsbury would respond to the next two Nashoba goals with scores of its own.
But Nashoba’s switch from a zone to man-to-man defense was able to slow the Colonials attack for nearly 12 minutes of game time, allowing Nashoba to climb back in, thanks to contributions from its midfield.
Mike Lengieza scored the first of his two goals to ignite a four-goal Chieftains run that was finished by fellow middie Bean Brassard.
“We’ve been trying to get our midfielders going all year,” Nashoba coach Kevin McNamara said. “It’s kind of funny because they finally got going (Wednesday). We got big goals out of Brassard and Mike. I knew that if we were going to come out and make a game of this, we were going to have to get help from, for us, some untraditional places.”
Shrewsbury’s Connor Joyce ended the run moments into the fourth quarter with his third goal off a pass from Kerr. Lengieza would add another to make it 11-9, but Alex Chin put the Colonials up for good on a dodging goal with under five minutes remaining.
“It was just an adjustment going from [zone] to [man-to-man],” Shrewsbury senior attackman Luke Warner said. “I think we played a little tight when that happened, but Coach called a few timeouts and we calmed ourselves down. Everyone just had to chill.”
With the win, Shrewsbury remains alive in the Central Mass tournament and will get to host yet another playoff game. Their next test will come Saturday at 3:30 pm against a Nipmuc team they previously defeated 10-7.
While Skermont believes his team was severely tested against Nashoba, he knows things will only get more difficult from here on out.
“Nipmuc is a team we played earlier this year, and it was a close one,” Skermont said. “We know they’ve gotten better, and we know it’s going to be a challenge the rest of the way.”