Hawks’ road comes to end in Monson

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

MONSON — Four-time defending Western Massachusetts Division IV champion Monson High School very much fit the role of a perennial powerhouse Tuesday afternoon.

The second-seeded Mustangs showed no signs of slowing down despite moving up to Division III this season. The result was a solid 4-0 victory over No. 10 Frontier Regional School in a WMass Division III Girls’ Soccer Tournament quarterfinal at Rogers Field.

“With their skill and speed, we struggled to keep up,” explained Frontier coach Phil Pittelli, whose team closed its outstanding campaign with a final record of 13-4-2. “Their midfield won the game for them. They’re very difficult to match up with there.”

Pulling the road upset would’ve been a difficult proposition had Frontier been at full strength. But injuries have hampered the forward tandem of sophomore Natalie Denkiewicz and freshman Cambrie Hamilton, and the duo was unable to play the full 80 minutes.

Denkiewicz, the team’s leading scorer, came off the bench against Monson. The team employed the same strategy in their first-round victory over Mount Greylock Regional High School, where she came on as a substitute and wound up scoring three goals to lead the Red Hawks to a 4-2 win.

Monson (13-2-4) was aware of Denkiewicz’s abilities, and head coach Eric Degnan said his game plan focused on keeping the sophomore sniper off the board.

“Denkiewicz is as dangerous a player as you’re going to see,” lauded Degnan. “I know she’s under the weather health-wise, but we definitely didn’t take her or Frontier lightly. I watched her single-handedly put the team on her back in the (win over Mount Greylock).”

Monson snagged control of the game in the 13th minute, when Hannah Hicks tallied on a one-time blast that was perfectly-placed in the upper corner of the goal frame from 30 yards out. Hicks’ shot got just over the hands of Frontier’s diving goalkeeper Lexa Boyden, and the Mustangs grabbed a 1-0 lead.

Despite a 10-2 edge in shots in the first half, Monson was unable to add to its lead the rest of the first half. Boyden and the Frontier defense, led by sophomore Tori Speth who had an outstanding game along the back line, kept the visitors within reach, quelling several scoring chances and carrying the 1-0 deficit into halftime.

“We weren’t pressing enough to make things happen offensively so we talked about playing with heart and determination at halftime and just seeing what we could make happen,” Pittelli said.

Degnan said the 1-0 halftime margin was too close for comfort, especially in an elimination format like the WMass Tourney.

“Just 1-0 at halftime, anything can happen with that score. So, we wanted to come out and just relax and play the way we know how to play,” he said. “We did a better job of relaxing in the second half.”

Aimee Wutka made it 2-0 with a goal seven minutes into the second half, while Lily Fabian scored goals in the 55th and 67th minutes to provide more insurance en route to the 4-0 win.

“We’ve had Monson in our division before so we definitely know how good they are,” Pittelli said. “Having some injuries up top hurts us in trying to possess the ball and balance things out a bit. But they were definitely the better team today.”

Monson finished with a 26-5 advantage in shots, as Boyden recorded 14 saves in a strong effort. Three of Monson’s four goals came on well-placed shots from 25 to 30 yards away.

“Their keeper played well,” said Degnan of Boyden. “She starts a lot of their plays with a long kick. I know her and Denkiewicz work well together on long balls so we wanted to try and slow that part of their game down as well.”

The loss was the final game for Boyden and fellow seniors Angela Self and Katie Thompson. The Hawks have a very young roster overall, and Pittelli employed two sophomores, two freshmen and an eighth-grader in his starting 11 against Monson.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said the Frontier coach of the quarterfinal appearance. “We haven’t made it to the tournament in three years and it’s been awhile since we’ve made it this far. We’re young, and we have a lot of young players who I think are going to be very good moving forward.”

Monson advanced to the Division III semifinals against No. 3 Monument Mountain Regional High School.