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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – The weather was perfect, the field groomed to perfection, and the Shrewsbury Colonials primed and ready to face off against one of their toughest competitors, the Westboro Rangers. Interestingly, there were actually two different games going on at once. The Shrewsbury team, made up of a group of fantastic players who put sportsmanship first and foremost, were there to play soccer. The Westboro team, interlaced with a handful of players for whom sportsmanship seems to have been a foreign concept, were there to play a game called “How many dirty hits can we get in to take out the opposing team.” It looked a bit more like roller derby than soccer to me, but one of the Westboro players assured me that they were there to play “full contact soccer.”
Laced with some ringers, or as they call them “exchange students” from the UK, the Westboro team was a tough opponent, as always, but their propensity to violence wasn’t enough to match the finesse game flawlessly executed by the Colonials. It’s quite likely that Westboro didn’t bring their “A game” from the start, and may have underestimated Shrewsbury a bit, and that played to they disadvantage as Shrewsbury got on the board first with an incredible goal scored by Arjun Tangaturi just a couple of minutes into the game. That seemed to wake up the sleeping giant that was the Rangers, and from that point on it was one wild soccer game.
With a 1-0 lead against one of the toughest teams in the division, there wasn’t one moment where the whole game didn’t seem to be on the line and Shrewsbury’s offense tried again and again with a few shots on goal masterfully stopped by the Westboro goalie. Tensions ran high as three or for members of the Rangers team who I came to think of as “the hit men” did all they could to “take out” the Shrewsbury players with a few “accidental” pushes, some tripping, and a few well placed “accidental kicks.” Perhaps the busiest guy on the field was Walter, the Shrewsbury trainer, who was there doing concussion assessments on the field, as several Shrewsbury players were carried off to the sidelines with injuries. Nonetheless, the Shrewsbury middle and rear defense formed an impenetrable wall, with Sam Levine, Ian Miller, Connor Nash and others masterfully protecting senior goalie Cam Kerr and the Shrewsbury net from attack after attack by the Rangers. As a spectator, I was just waiting for the Shrewsbury team to retaliate against Westboro for some of their egregious behavior, but the Colonials decided that the win was more important than retaliating, with reminders from the team leaders in the huddle that fouling now wasn’t the answer, and that the resultant penalty kicks could cost them the game, so they wisely held their temper and let their foot skills do the talking.
With only one goal on the scoreboard the clock continued to tick down and with only five minutes left it looked like that one goal lead from the beginning might actually be all that was needed to secure a victory. As the two minute warning was sounded, and with the Rangers fighting for their lives, the Shrewsbury offense continued to pound away, and with less than a minute remaining, Shrewsbury’s Rayane Jallouli stunning the Westborough goalie and banged in the second Shrewsbury goal just before the final whistle sounded, for a resounding 2-0 victory. With a record of 2-1 so far this year, Shrewsbury seems well poised to make a real run at the championship yet again in 2012.