By Greg Phipps
Prior to his presentation of varsity awards, Peabody boys’ soccer head coach Stan McKeen talked about this year’s program producing a combined 27-11-12 record between the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads.
“Not a bad number. It shows we’re competitive from top to bottom and the future looks promising,” McKeen told the gathering of players, parents and coaches on Tuesday night, Nov. 20, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Peabody. The 2018 varsity and JV teams each finished with 11 victories, and the freshmen recovered from a 0-2-3 start to collect five wins.
On the subject of the varsity team, McKeen said beating Northeastern Conference (NEC) rivals Beverly and the Danvers Falcons twice this season was a major step forward. The Falcons had been a particular nemesis for the Tanners in recent years, but Peabody rolled to convincing wins on both occasions this fall. The second triumph was especially sweet as it knocked Danvers out of playoff contention.
“We started off 3-2-2 and then went on a 7-1 run. During that stretch we beat Beverly, Billerica and Marblehead and we went 4-0 against nonleague opponents,” observed McKeen, who added that the Tanners are losing 11 seniors to graduation.
Despite its 11-4-3 regular-season finish, Peabody ended up with a difficult first-round opponent in the Div. I North tournament. Facing a talented Medford team, who had edged the Tanners by one goal in the final regular-season game, Peabody fell behind 2-0. It cut that lead in half before Medford scored to make it 3-1. The Tanners scored in the final minute of the contest to make it interesting but fell short, 3-2.
“It was a tough first-round draw and we played in tough conditions that night. It affected both teams,” recalled McKeen, who admitted he wasn’t happy with the officiating. Neither side was, he pointed out, as the Medford head coach was ejected from the game.
“All year, the players battled hard and never quit. This team had chemistry – a great bunch of kids – and I’m very proud of them. They worked well together,” McKeen said. “They just would not quit. This was the best season we’ve had in [several] years.”
Senior forward Johnny Alves, the NEC North co-Most Valuable Player and Eastern Massachusetts all-star, received the team’s Offensive Player award. He amassed 28 goals this season to go with 10 assists and had 56 goals for his career, which began as a sophomore. Fellow senior teammate Mike Tansey earned the Defensive Player award. Tansey also made the all-NEC North squad.
Senior Noah Surman was given the Tony Porcello trophy for academic and athletic excellence while Josh Atemkeng was recognized with the John Petradelis award for team spirit, desire and commitment. Will Manning took home the Joe King award for his hard work, dedication and positive attitude.
The Most Improved Player went to Tulio Nascimento, while Alex Freedman, Michael Beader and Juan Hernandez received coaches awards. Earning coaches awards for the JV team, which went 11-3-4 this year after losing its first two contests, were Bjorn Shurdha, Harrison Fisher, Tyler Surman and Johnny D’Alleva.
Freshmen head coach Scott Myers said “every single game we played this year was close and exciting.” The Tanner freshmen finished 5-3-5, and Myers handed coaches awards to Nick Soper, Gavin Russell, Jason Martarano and Matthew Calver.
McKeen was also recognized for being named the Coach of the Year in the NEC North. He was given a ball signed by players from all three teams in honor of the achievement.
Kyle Morfis and Ben Kemp were named team captains for 2019.