SHEFFIELD >> Junior forward Jamie Nicholas chipped in a ball with 8:30 left in the game to give third-seeded Northfield Mount Herman a thrilling 1-0 upset over second-seed Berkshire School in the semifinals of the NEPSAC Division A New England Soccer Championships on Saturday afternoon.
Berkshire saw their four-year, 10-game win streak in the NEPSAC "A" tournament come to an end. The Bears had won the three previous crowns, an unprecedented feat. The team ends it season at 16-3-0. Northfield, now 17-2-0, advances to Sunday's final in at Brooks School in North Andover to face the winner of Phillips Andover and Milton Academy.
As befits a game between the third-tanked team in the nation (Berkshire) and the No. 4 team (Northfield), the game was well-played, physical and closely contested. The Bears dominated the first half, outshooting the visitors 6-1 and controlling the ball for extended stretches, But Northfield coach Jim Burstein partially offset the Bears blazing speed on the wings by dropping back five and six players on defense.
Too, the hero of the game was senior goalie Will Desautels of Northfield who ended up with nine saves on the day. Berkshire's skilled senior forwards Mutaya Mwape (17 goals on the year) and Ifunanyachi Achara (23 goals) both had chances, but failed to convert in part because of Desautels.
The second half saw Northfield generate more chances, but the hosts still outshot them 7-4 for the period. Berkshire goalie Noah Abrams (five saves) blocked a breakaway with 17:22 left and the tide eventually turned in Northfield's favor as Nicholas scored nine minutes later.