Belchertown ousts Raiders, 5-1

For The Recorder
Monday, November 06, 2017

BELCHERTOWN — Once the Monday rain subsided, the night sky came out, the lights came on, and the top-seeded Belchertown High School boys’ soccer team defeated No. 8 Athol High School, 5-1, in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Tournament.

From the first whistle, it was evident that the field conditions would be a factor. With players struggling to gain footing, it was difficult for either team to maintain possession. Playing on its home turf, Belchertown seemed to have an advantage on the water-logged field.

Evan Fournier opened up the scoring for the Orioles with a kick from the left corner that sailed over Athol goalkeeper Jordan Carrasquillo’s head to make it 1-0.

“This field’s been like this for a week or two,” Fournier said of the field conditions. “We’ve played a couple games on it, so every time I try to stay confident plating my feet, you learn to deal with it.”

With 14:15 remaining in the first half, Maxim Caron was subbed into the game during an Orioles attack. Trying to put the ball on net, Daniel Becker rifled one off Carrasquillo’s chest that bounced to the foot of Maxon, who quickly shot a dribbler into the net.

Down 2-0 with a little over six minutes left in the half, Matt Logan scored Athol’s lone goal of the day.

Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, their momentum did not last long when Cyrus Raines and Michael Laughner connected for Belchertown’s third goal of the game. Despite three first-half goals, Belchertown’s offense missed many shots. Shortly after his goal, Laughner missed a sliding kick off a pass from Caron.

“We’re still missing some things offensively, overall I think we played a good game,” Belchertown coach Tony Almieda said of his teams scoring ability. “Going forward we have to do better but I think our offense is clicking. We just have to sharpen up a few things and see what happens.”

Trying to switch up their game plan in the second half, Athol was unable to slow the Belchertown offense.

“It’s a game of opportunities. They converted on theirs in the first half and we didn’t,” Athol coach Dave King said. “We put ourselves behind, tried to make some adjustments in the second half and those last couple of goals were a result of changing what we’ve done and did in the first half.”

Athol (13-6-1) did have several good chances as the second half played out, but Belchertown goalkeeper Sean McCarthy stood tall. Five minutes into the second half Athol’s Hayden Herk was denied a breakaway by a McCarthy dive.

With 20 minutes left in regulation Athol’s offense was attempting to press the Orioles defense, leaving their side of the field wide open.

Sean O’Neill scored an unassisted goal for the Orioles’ fourth goal. Nathaniel Schiffer scored their fifth and final goal to put the nail in the coffin for Athol’s playoff hopes.

The Orioles will play No. 4 Mount Greylock Regional High School in Wednesday’s semifinals at Szot Park in Chicopee.

There are still plenty of takeaways for King and Athol.

“Our senior leadership was tremendous. I think we grew as a program and every year you try to get a little better,” he said.