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Pioneer closing in

  • Smith #9 with #11 and 7

    Smith #9 with #11 and 7

  • Smith #20 and #9

    Smith #20 and #9

  • Pioneer #8 and #2

    Pioneer #8 and #2

  • Smith - 12 Pioneer #11

    Smith - 12 Pioneer #11

  • Frontier goalie Dylan Husted. J. Anthonny Roberts photo

    Frontier goalie Dylan Husted. J. Anthonny Roberts photo

  • Smith #9 with #11 and 7
  • Smith #20 and #9
  • Pioneer #8 and #2
  • Smith - 12 Pioneer #11
  • Frontier goalie Dylan Husted. J. Anthonny Roberts photo

It’s been four years since the Pioneer Valley Regional School boys’ soccer team qualified for the postseason.

The Panthers are now just two points away from ending that streak.

Pioneer put together a solid 80-minute effort and earned another quality point as it played to a 0-0 draw against Smith Academy Thursday afternoon in Northfield.

The game was evenly played, as Smith Academy held a 4-3 edge in shots. The Falcons controlled more of the first-half play but Pioneer came back to control the second. Both goalies played well. Pioneer’s Josh Hill finished with four saves. Smith Academy’s Cam Woodward stopped all three shots he faced.

“They were good, quality shots, too,” second-year Pioneer coach Ben Bricker said. “It was as even as even gets. It was an exciting game to watch. It was nerve-racking for me but exciting for everyone else.”

Pioneer needs one win (or two ties) to qualify for the WMass Division III Tournament. It’s a far cry from the situation that Bricker found himself in when he took over the job last fall just days before the season started.

“Last year was a lot of feeling out, both for me feeling out coaching, and for the players, who had to put a lot of trust in someone that is nearly the same age as them,” Bricker said. “It’s a different story this year, and it doesn’t have as much to do with me as it does with the players here. Their attitude has changed so much. They put in a lot of time in the offseason, playing indoor soccer and working on their games. And it’s exciting. These guys have never played in a tournament game. I’m excited for them to get that opportunity.”

Pioneer will try to clinch the postseason berth Saturday at home at 3 when it hosts Drury High School during Homecoming Day.

Monson 0, Frontier 0 — Dylan Husted registered 10 saves for the shutout but Frontier Regional School was thwarted on a breakaway in the final minutes as the Hawks and Monson High School played to a 0-0 independent draw in boys’ soccer action on Thursday at Herlihy Park in Whately.

Frontier (5-3-1 overall) had a chance to win it with 30 seconds left. Connor Hamilton sent a through ball to Chad Parent, who dribbled inside the penalty box and launched a low shot. But Mustangs keeper Ben Murphy dove to his right and made a spectacular save, deflecting the ball away before his defenders cleared it.

Monson held the upper hand in shots, 18-13. Murphy finished with six saves.

Red Hawks head coach Dale Totman was impressed with Husted’s performance.

“I thought he was phenomenal,” said Totman. “It was the best game of his career.”

Frontier hosts Sabis International Charter School on Monday.

Athol 0, Southwick 0 — Jamie Posk and Patrick Keene each made seven saves in their respective goals and neither keeper pulled a ball out of his net as Athol High School and Southwick-Tolland High School played to a 0-0 independent boys’ soccer draw Thursday in Athol.

Athol outshot Southwick, 14-13. Posk, playing in the Athol net, made a pair of strong saves as part of his seven saves. Red Raider defenseman Brandon Barilone helped out his goalie as he cleared a ball of the goal line.

Southwick goalie Keene also stopped seven shots and was helped out by his defense. The Red Raiders managed to get behind the Southwick defense on multiple occasions but senior center back Ryan King made some strong plays to thwart the attacks.

Athol hosts Turners Falls High School Saturday at 1:45.

Catholic 1, Mahar 0 — Mahar Regional School’s offensive struggles continued Thursday when Holyoke Catholic High School scored early in the second half and held on for a 1-0 victory in independent boys’ soccer play Thursday at the Woodward Complex in Orange.

Ryan Lukomski struck in the 42nd minute for the game’s only goal. John O’Hara had the assist.

Both teams finished with nine shots on goal.

Tom Heavren stopped all nine shots for the shutout. Matt Simmington had eight saves for the Senators.

Renaissance 2, Turners 0 — John Togba and Benzeli Djuma each scored first-half goals and Renaissance School defeated Turners Falls, 2-0, in an independent boys’ soccer game Thursday night in Turners Falls.

Abdul Abdulani made four saves to record the shutout. Zach Demars stopped 14 shots in the Indians’ net.

Gateway 3, Greenfield 0 — Jake Merritt collected a goal and an assist as Gateway Regional High School blanked Greenfield High School, 3-0, in independent boys’ soccer action Thursday in Greenfield.

Curtis Dowers and Denver Yost also scored for the Gators, who led 1-0 at halftime.

Gateway outshot the Green Wave 20-4. Oleg Cobileanschi made eight saves for Greenfield.

Granby 3, Mohawk 1 — Granby High School used a pair of first-half goals to knock off Mohawk Trail Regional High School, 3-1, in independent boys’ soccer action Thursday in Buckland.

Theodore Robert, Noah Parent and Conor O’Shea each scored once for the Rams, while Robert Cavette, Doug L’Abbe and Zachary Funk each had one assist. Brett Sullivan made four saves to register the win.

Sam Slowinski scored the lone goal for Mohawk, and newly appointed co-captain Josh Taylor made 17 saves in the Mohawk net.

St. Mary 5, FC Tech 0 — Alex Sheltra scored a goal and added an assist to lead St. Mary High School to a 5-0 win over Franklin County Technical School in an independent boys’ soccer match Thursday in Turners Falls.

Alex LaPier, Padraig Smith, Drew Collins and Billy Lamirande also scored for the Saints.

Bryce Kibbe recorded the shutout by making four saves. Joey Barcomb stopped 18 shots for the Eagles.

Girls’ game

Amherst 2, Mahar 0 — Sage DeChiara scored once in each half and Amherst Regional High School edged Mahar Regional School, 2-0, in an independent girls’ soccer game Thursday in Amherst.

The Division II Senators (5-3-1) hung with the Division I Hurricanes (5-3-2) but DeChiara proved to be the difference. The Amherst sniper gave her squad a 1-0 lead with four minutes left in the first half on an assist from Madison Fluekiger. Mahar nearly tied the score with 10 minutes left in the game as freshman Mackenzie Tenney broke in on Amherst goalie Becca Carkhuff but was unable to score. DeChiara iced the game with eight minutes to go on an assist from Taylor Bartmon.

Carkhuff finished with seven saves in the shutout, while Sydney Whitcomb stopped nine shots in the losing effort.

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