As soon as the first whistle blew at 6:00 pm, Saint John Paul came out firing on all cylinders, prompting Coach Brian Hastings to make some quick first-half adjustments. The Storm battled back to dominate the possession for the final 30 minutes of the first-half, but the result was a scoreless draw.
The second half was a similar story. It was a defensive battle between teams who had given up the second and third fewest goals in the Cape and Islands League. Sturgis again won the possession battle and accrued more shots. However, Sturgis almost fell when one of SJP’s captains lined up to take a free kick 20 yards from the Storm’s net, but time luckily expired.
In the MIAA, if time expires in a tournament game and there is a tie, the teams play two 10-minute sudden death rounds and then potentially engage in a penalty shoot-out. However, with under five minutes remaining in the second overtime, Ahmad Akkawi went on a breakaway counter-attack and crossed the ball to freshman Nathan Slover, who headed the ball over the goalie for the 1-0 stunner. Hundreds of Sturgis students, alumni, teachers, and parents stormed the field to congratulate the team and Nathan. Aaron Nadler famously commented, “I doubt Nate fully understands the magnitude of what he just did for Sturgis”. The resonating chant of “Re-le-vant! Re-le-vant!” filled the air on the soccer field in Yarmouth.
Although the players were surely disappointed by the subsequent loss to Nantucket in the quarter finals, the boys soccer program continued to progress and certainly exceeded expectations this season. The Storm finished with a record of 8 wins, 7 draws, and only 3 losses, qualifying for the state tournament for the seventh consecutive year, a Sturgis record. With a young underdog team that had more starting freshmen than seniors, the group took the league by storm and managed to put together a great tournament run.
Junior midfielders Sawyer Gibbons and Jake LaMotte paced the team with seven goals, one of LaMotte’s being a header in the state tournament match against Nantucket. Ahmad Akkawi and Matt Donahue recorded 7 and 6 assists, respectively, both career highs. Other highlights throughout the season included Jake LaMotte’s game-tying rocket in the waning minutes against Sacred Heart to spoil their Homecoming game into a 1-1 tie. Junior goalkeeper Nick Pinard was particularly impressive, recording 8 shutouts in the 2015 season.
A special note goes out to the graduating seniors in this soccer program who will never play another game for Sturgis Storm soccer. They played soccer with an extremely high level of passion, and their presence on and off the soccer field will be sincerely missed.
The boys soccer team knew how to put their personal differences aside and work together towards their common goal of a state tournament victory. When every single one of the players was focused on communication with each other, they were unbeatable. Through a resilience and refusal to quit, this band of brothers came from behind to either win or draw on five separate occasions.
Next year is sure to be another promising year as the team has ten more months to mature in technical skills. After six years, the Storm has finally won its first state tournament soccer game in school history, a feat that will establish this team as one of the greatest Sturgis teams of all time.