By Jeremy Balan
The Lincoln High School boys soccer team doesn’t use the on-field scoreboard for its home games, but even if it did, you wouldn’t believe the score the way the Mustangs and Lowell were playing late in their Academic Athletic Association matchup on Tuesday.
The Cardinals were playing with the urgency and panic of a team trailing, while the Mustangs were calmly doing everything they could to delay the game, as if they were holding on to a lead.
Neither was true, however, and the teams finished locked in a 1-1 tie, but the implications of that tie were far from normal.
It ended Lowell’s 47-game AAA win streak.
As the final whistle blew, several Lowell players buried their heads in their hands, while the Mustangs celebrated like it was a win.
“For us, it’s an actualization that we can do,” said Lincoln head coach Kenyatta Scott. “It’s a huge win for our confidence and to let them know that they can. It felt like a win. It really did.”
The last time Lowell (9-0-3, 9-0-1) didn’t secure a win in a AAA game was against Mission on Nov. 3, 2009, a 1-0 loss in the league semifinals.
“I don’t know if people will believe this, but we don’t talk about [the winning streak],” said Lowell head coach Marcos Estebez. “I think that it’s futile to talk about winning streaks, because they always end.”
Lowell jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal from junior Will Slotterback in the fourth minute, when he deflected a free kick from senior defender Peter Harrington into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Cardinals didn’t have another solid scoring opportunity for the rest of the half and Lincoln (9-2-2, 8-1-1) struck back early in the second.
In the 51st minute, Lincoln sent the ball into the Cardinals’ penalty area and it was deflected toward the net, into the path of Lowell senior captain Zachary Weisenburger. A normally sure-footed defender, Weisenburger was fooled by the spin on the ball and could not get control of it.
Lowell goalkeeper Abdul Monim also slid in to try to break up the play, but Lincoln freshman Raury Girling was in the right spot at the right time and chipped the loose ball just over Monim and into the net.
It was Lincoln’s only shot on target in the game and Lowell dominated the rest of the way.
But as much as the Cardinals controlled possession and chances, with every missed opportunity, they grew more and more frustrated.
“There were players that were tight – a little nervous,” Estebez said. “So, there were some mistakes that were made, because for some of these boys, this is the biggest game they’ve been in.”
Lowell sent several golden opportunities sailing well over the crossbar, but it was the play of Lincoln senior goalkeeper Jacob MacDonald that ultimately kept the Cardinals scoreless. MacDonald made seven saves, but also slid in to cut off Lowell attackers twice.
Granted, many of the Lowell shots were sent directly at MacDonald, but none were without considerable strength. MacDonald corralled them all, when one rebound could have meant a loss.
“The man of the match today was our goalkeeper Jacob MacDonald,” Scott said. “I’m not taking anything away from Lowell, but he definitely shut them down. They had their opportunities to not just take the lead, but to really punish us, and Jacob rose to the occasion.”
Although Lowell has lost its win streak, what survives is a 48-game unbeaten streak. The Cardinals will take that streak into Thursday’s game against fellow unbeaten Mission, which will likely decide the top seed in the AAA playoffs.
“I hope [this motivates us],” Estebez said. “They were very down – I thought more down than they should have been. It wasn’t like they didn’t try. They made mistakes, but both teams made mistakes. So, I’m a little worried, because we have our biggest game coming up. We can’t beat ourselves up to the point where we will be emotionally impotent against Mission, who expects us to bring our ‘A’ game.”