Nasty soccer brawl leads to premature ending in state semis

It was supposed to be a moment to remember for the Ludlow (Mass.) High soccer team. With just under two minutes to go in  the Division I state semifinal match against Worcester North (Mass.) High, Ludlow, ahead 1-0 at the time, looked destined for the state finals.

The unfortunate thing is Ludlow never got the opportunity to enjoy the post-match celebration that should have come with the team's historic return to the state championship. They have Worcester North to thank for marring the joyous occasion.

As the Springfield Republican newspaper noted, the heated match took a nasty turn when a Worcester North player ran into Ludlow goalie Nick Zucco in the closing minutes of the game. That's when a few Worcester North players went over to argue with the referee, who ended up giving a red card.

The exchange got so heated, in fact, that the referee decided to call the game before full-time had elapsed, leaving Worcester North players enraged. That's when they started to take their anger out on Ludlow, going after a couple of the opposition's players and igniting a post-match brawl that saw Worcester North fans storm the field; one of the fans ended up punching Ludlow forward Shaun Mello.

Despite both teams throwing punches, Massachuesetts Interscholastic Athletic Association officials determined Ludlow wasn't at fault for the brawl, and that none of their players would be suspended for the state final match against Masconomet.

"Our principal was there, and our athletic director, and we had staff there," Ludlow coach Greg Kolodziey told The Republican. "They got a view for what was happening in the game and they're going to go with the referees' decision, so we're good to go. They (the Ludlow administration) were supportive."

You hate to see on-field incidents overshadow a close soccer match, but based on how chippy things were from the start -- there were three yellow cards issued in the first half -- nobody should be surprised things escalated as the match progressed.

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