- Geoff Cartier
It is nearly impossible to pick the most indelible moment of Oxford Soccer's majestic final game of the 2017 soccer season. To Head of School, Phil Cocchiola. it was at halftime of the Coastal Prep Championship game, which pitted the Oxen against Times Squared Academy of Providence. RI. It occurred dunng Head Coach Matt Pachniuk's speech to the team: it 'brought those kids back around. The boys never gave up and trusted their coaches and each other.'
To team videographer and English teacher Taylor Sahl it was watching team Captain Livingston Ferdinand go "into beast mode in the second half, making these insane runs down the field and just charging through defenders. You could just tell that he wasn't going to leave that field without the trophy. I've never seen that kind of fire in Oxford Athletics before."
To many others it was watching the team celebrate following their 3-2 overtime victory to clinch the school's first Coastal Prep Championship. From the kickoff it was clear that this was going to be a closely contested game. TSA brought an energy and competitiveness that was sorely lacking in the last meeting between these two teams. On that day, Oxford easily dispatched TSA in a 8-2 laugher.
Oxford was able to get on the board first as Senior Ronald Mugisha gathered a ball in the box, pivoted, and deposited it with a sharply struck right foot. Things took a turn for the worse as TSA equalized and then Freshman Lucas Guevara had to be helped off the field after badly injuring his ankle while coming down from an attempted header. In perhaps the most important coaching decision of the game, Coach Pachniuk encouraged Bruce Ngoga, who had been recently hobbled with his own lower body injury, to reenter the game and take on a defensive position.
While this stabilized the backend and helped in the transition game, it was not enough to stop TSA from taking the lead early in the second half. You really learn a lot about a team when you see how they react to adversity. Down a goal with one of their most talented players on the bench, one would not have been surprised if the team had given up. But instead they rallied and carried the play throughout the remainder of the half. Liv Ferdinand was an indomitable force who relentlessly carried the ball through and around multiple defenders. Defensive stalwarts Danny Harrington, Simon Louis, Max Lakritz and Bailin Pollard worked tirelessly to halt any scoring efforts. And Goalie Max Bonchek provided a few key saves to make sure TSA couldn't lengthen their lead. Oxford's efforts paid off when Ngoga was able to slot the equalizer following the team's ninth corner kick of the game.
Then things got really intense as the game went into overtime, a five-minute Golden Goal period to be followed by penalty kicks if neither team scored. It looked like TSA was going to end it in the first minute of the extra period as they advanced inside of the eighteen and sent a volley off of the crossbar. But the ball went straight down and bounced into Bonchek's sure hands.
The game ended with a certain symmetry that could not have been scripted any better. A long clear by Bruce Ngoga was collected by Ronald Mugisha who then slipped a through ball into space for Livingston Ferdinand who then turned on the jets and beat the sprawling TSA keeper down low for the biggest goal in the history of the school. The three players who have epitomized Oxford Soccer for the past three years were the last to touch the ball. Congratulations to Coach Pachniuk, Coach Maragliano, and all of the members of Oxford's soccer team: 2017 Champions of the Coastal Prep League!