SHEFFIELD -- The Berkshire School Bears lived up to their ranking as the No. 1 prep school boys soccer team in the United States on Wednesday, dominating a very good Choate team, 3-0, in the opening round of the New England Prep School Soccer Association tournament.
The Bears, ranked No. 1 by the national Elite Soccer Report, outshot Choate 14-3. Justin Donawa had a pair of goals in the contest, and Berkshire co-captain Zeiko Lewis had a goal and two assists. For Lewis, it was his league-leading 30th goal and his eighth and ninth assists. He now has 69 points, also tops in the league.
The Bears (17-0-1) next face the winner of No. 4 seed Kent and No. 5 seed Hotchkiss on Saturday at 2 p.m.
"We haven't yet fulfilled one of the goals we had when I came here four years ago," said Berkshire co-captain Noah Sinkoff of Richmond, one of three local players on the Bears' roster, along with Matt Renzi, also of Richmond, and Jackson Berwick of Egremont.
"We've gotten to the semifinals of this tournament before, but we haven't won it," said Sinkoff, who plays wing and halfback for the Bears.
Despite the win, Berkshire School coach Jon Moodey was not overly impressed with the outcome.
"We were a little complacent today," he said. "Choate is a very disciplined team. They played very well defensively and their goalie was outstanding."
Indeed, Choate (11-5-2) goaltender Alex Choi had 12 stops in the contest, some of the highlight-film variety, that saved the visitors from a worse defeat.
But the Bears' overall team speed was too much. The home side's first score came with Lewis jetting down the right side of the field. He attracted two defenders and artfully slid the ball to Donawa, who hammered it in almost point black five minutes into the game.
The second score was nearly identical, with Lewis drawing Choate defenders to him and again feeding Donawa about four minutes later.
The final score came when Anthony Amolo was taken down in the Choate penalty area. Lewis drilled the penalty kick with about five minutes left in the contest.
Amolo had another chance midway through the first period. Another of the Bears' speed merchants, he made an explosive run right down the middle of the field, juking three defenders. Another head fake drew goalie Choi out of position, and Amolo let fly a shot. But senior Addison Choi, Alex's brother, flew over from the weak side and kicked the shot out. Even Berkshire fans applauded that.
The visitors' best chance came when Choate's Seb Blickman chipped a ball over the outstretched arms of Berkshire goalie Bryan Gerstenfeld from about 18 feet out. A great shot and a sure goal, with about 10 minutes left in the game.
But no. Co-captain Brandon Allen came in from the weak side and blasted the ball away just as it was about to cross the goal line. It was a play that had the Berkshire faithful chanting "Bran-don Al-len! Bran-don Al-len!" for several minutes.
"[The ball] Didn't get there," said Allen after the game. "It was going to go in, but he [Blickman] chipped the ball a little high, and it gave me just enough time to clear it."
That was really it for Choate in the second half. Allen and junior Nate Summers backstopped an outstanding defensive effort that blunted most of Choate's incursions before they got going. Gerstenfeld made two saves.
The Bears will be back home on Saturday, and if they win, will play in the finals on Sunday at a neutral site.
"This is a year I've been building for a while," said Moodey. "Other school's recruit post-graduate players to play one year, and it's tempting. But all three of our captains have been here for four years. I think that tends to give the team more continuity."
"We're a family," said Sinkoff. "It starts off the field, not just in games."
"Everyone works toward the same thing," said Lewis. "When the new guys get here every year, they understand what we're doing. We have one goal."
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