Panthers rally, stun Mt. Everett in OT
While Pioneer Valley Regional School may have looked like a team playing its first postseason game in four years for the first 10 minutes of Friday night’s Western Massachusetts Division IV Boys’ Soccer Tournament against Mt. Everett Regional High School, but for the remainder of the game it looked like anything but.
Phil Kang finished off a shot with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for the Panthers, and Brian Aja headed home a cross from Anders Paulson in overtime to give Pioneer an improbable 3-2 first-round victory in Northfield.
With momentum firmly in place following the game-tying goal late in the second half, Pioneer finished off the comeback with three minutes remaining in the first of what would have been two overtime periods. The game-winning play started with a corner taken by Anders Paulson. The cross found Brian Aja, who used his head to knock home the goal that sent his teammates into a frenzy.
“I’m hoarse, I can barely speak,” Pioneer coach Ben Bricker said. “They really earned those goals. Mt. Everett plays out of the Berkshires, and Berkshire teams are tough. They didn’t give us an inch. The guys on this team earned every inch of this.”
The eighth-seeded Panthers (11-3-3) were making their first tournament appearance since 2009 and were stunned by Everett early, as the ninth-seeded Eagles (9-9-1) built a 2-0 lead before Pioneer even knew what hit it. Sage Angell did the honors on both goals, scoring his first of the game in the eighth minute on an assist from Alec Blume, and then netting his second in the 10th minute. At that point Pioneer coach Ben Bricker called a timeout to calm his players down.
“Basically I said to them, ‘Welcome to the tournament,’” Bricker said. “Not one of my players has ever played in a tournament game. They really picked it up after the timeout and for a team to come back from a two-goal deficit in their first-ever tournament game really shows you something. Most high school teams are going to quit.”
Pioneer began to take control of the game following the timeout, the pressure eventually leading to Mt. Everett to call a timeout of its own. At that point, Bricker had a message for his team.
“I told my guys, ‘If you don’t get a goal in the first half, we’re not going to do,’” he said. “We needed to score before the end of the first.”
He got exactly what he was asking for with two minutes left before halftime when Phil Kang roared down the middle of the field and carried the ball into the box. He eventually played a cross to Jeremy Kemble, who finished his shot up into the top corner to cut the deficit to 2-1 at the break.
The second half belonged to Pioneer, which carried play but continually came up empty. Pioneer finished the game with a 15-4 edge in shots, but the Panthers were only able to fire six shots on the Eagles’ net. With the game in the final minute, Pioneer once again had the ball in the Eagles’ 18-yard box and Kang wound up with the ball on his foot in front with 30 seconds to go and he beat Mt. Everett goalie Ryan Meyer (three saves) to tie the game.
“I was wondering if it was real,” Bricker said. “The second half was a battle. We definitely controlled play, and it felt like it was only a matter of time until we scored, but in the last two minutes, I was getting ready to give them the ‘It’s been a good season’ speech. For them to tie the game ... I’m astounded.”
Josh Hill finished with two saves in the win. Pioneer moves on to play top-seeded Hopkins Academy (16-1-1) Monday at 2 p.m. in Hadley.
Hoosac 1, Athol 0 — Athol High School did everything right except for winning the game.
The ninth-seeded Red Raiders dominated in terms of time of possession and shots, but were unable to beat Hoosac Valley Regional High School goalie Colby Ells. The eighth-seeded Hurricanes, conversely, scored on their only quality chance and earned a 1-0 WMass Division III boys’ soccer win over the Red Raiders in a first- round game Friday afternoon in Cheshire.
The game-deciding goal came 20 minutes, 59 seconds into the contest when Hoosac (10-6-2) won a ball in its defensive half and played it quickly ahead to Sean Ryan-Kut, who was 30 yards from the Athol net. Ryan-Kut played the ball ahead to Knapp, who was parked near the top of the penalty area, and he turned and squared up to the net. Knapp beat a pair of Athol defenders head-on, and then walked in one-on-one with Athol goalie Jaime Posk, who was unable to make the save.
“It was really the only time we gave them time and space in our zone the entire game and they capitalized on it,” Athol coach Dave King said.
Athol (9-7-3) held a 28-4 edge in shots on the day and King said his team controlled the ball for “90 percent of the game.” The thing standing in the way of an Athol victory was Ells, who stopped 16 shots. The Red Raiders had a breakaway from leading scorer Bradley Bousquet at one point in the first half that Ells stopped, and later in the first, Ells made a save on a Tanner Pavilionis volley from the top of the 18.
“Everything we hit was at him,” King said. “He covered his line well, and there were a couple opportunities where he bobbled the ball, but his defenders cleaned it up.
“You ask your team to give it all they’ve got and to play with excellence,” he continued. “We did exactly what we needed to, but in soccer, sometimes that just what happens.”
Gateway 2, Greenfield 0 — Gateway Regional High School scored a pair of second-half goals to eliminate Greenfield High School, 2-0, in a WMass Division IV Boys’ Soccer first round game Friday night in Huntington.
The game was a defensive battle, with the fourth-seeded Gators (13-4-2) holding a 7-3 edge in shots over the 13th-seeded Green Wave (5-10-4). While Greenfield qualified for the tournament with a record well under .500 due to finishing second in the McGrath North Division, coach Kurt Richardson said he believed his team did more than enough to prove it not only belonged, but had a legitimate chance to win.
“I’m very pleased,” he began. “You can see by the shot total, it wasn’t like they were shooting a lot and missing the goal. We defended their game-style very well and transitioned the ball back up the field to create our chances.”
The game-winning goal was scored in the 51st minute when Sam Bean set up Josh Baillargeon for a 1-0 Gateway lead. Then, with Greenfield trying to get the tying goal late, Gateway sealed the Wave’s fate on a goal from Calvin Dowers.
Tyler Jacques finished with five saves for Greenfield, which was missing starting sweeper Ben Darmanchev due to an injury. Sylvian Popusoi stepped in for him, and Richardson said did “a stellar job.” Vova Cobileanschi was also credited for his play on defense.
Mike Arel made three saves for the shutout.
Four Rivers 3, PVPA 2, OT — Ben Michel scored two minutes into overtime to send Four Rivers Charter School to the championship game of the River Valley Athletic League Boys’ Soccer Tournament with a 3-2 victory over Pioneer Valley School of Performing Arts in a semifinal game Friday in Greenfield.
The Otters will take on the winner of the other semifinal between Dublin School and Hartsbrook School Sunday afternoon at 2 at Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield.
Four Rivers had to come back from a pair of one-goal deficits in order to force the overtime. Eli Heath gave PVPA a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute, but Finn McMillan tied the game for the Otters in the 34th minute. Mack Tirrell put PVPA back up by a goal in the second half, before Jack Conant tied the game with four minutes remaining on an assist from Sullivan Fraser.
SBS 3, Charlemont 1 — Victoria Subritsky-Katz and Juliana Merullo each scored first-half goals for Stoneleigh-Burnham and the Owls earned a 3-1 win over Academy at Charlemont in the RVAL girls’ soccer semifinals Friday afternoon in Greenfield.
Rosemary Ilang scored the lone goal of the second half to ice the win. Greenfield’s Emily Zraunig had an assist on the day, and Ieva Jasponyte played well in the Owls’ net.
SBS will host the championship game Sunday at noon.