Frontier drills Spartans, secures semifinal berth

  • Frontier’s Alex Gheorghita (17) and Monument’s Tristan Alston (22) jump up for a header during the first half of the host Red Hawks’ 4-1 WMass boys’ Division III soccer win Tuesday night in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Ethan LaFleur (3) and Monument’s Will Casarsa (13) jump up for a header in the first half on Tuesday in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Ethan LaFleur (3) gets a shot past Monument defender Will Casarsa (13) for a goal in the first half Tuesday in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Doug Hanieski (19) and Ben Morse (18) celebrate a goal by Ethan LaFleur (3) during the first half of the Red Hawks’ 4-1 boys’ Division III soccer quarterfinal win over Monument Tuesday in South Deerfield. rECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Connor Bagdon (9) contends for possession with Monument’s Kosta Cami (15) Tuesday in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — It was a long seven days for the Frontier Regional School boys’ soccer team.

One week after a disappointing 4-0 loss in the regular-season finale to Belchertown High School, the Red Hawks finally got back on the field Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III Tournament.

On the strength of a huge second half, No. 3 Frontier got back into the win column in impressive fashion. The hosts broke open a tight game with three goals in the second half, pulling away for a 4-1 win over No. 6 Monument Mountain Regional High School.

The win propelled the Hawks (12-2-4) into the Division III semifinals and a meeting with No. 2 Southwick-Tolland Regional High School (13-3-1) set for Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Szot Park in Chicopee.

“That loss (to Belchertown) left a sour taste in our mouths,” Frontier head coach Dale Totman explained. “We wanted to move on, leave that in the past. It’s a new season in the playoffs. We’ve been building all season for this. I’m proud of the way the guys got the job done.”

Frontier led 1-0 at halftime thanks to a goal from Ethan LaFleur in the 13th minute.

Monument (8-7-3) nearly tied the game just before intermission, however, as Nate Lacombe’s header off a corner kick hit the post with 2:20 remaining.

The Hawks took the 1-0 lead into the break, though Monument’s hopes for a comeback took a big hit when junior midfielder Noel Powell went down late in the opening frame with an injury and didn’t return.

Frontier doubled its lead in the 50th minute, as a brilliant bit of individual work from Ben Arnold made it a 2-0 lead. Arnold hauled in possession of the ball, flicked it past a Monument defender and got in alone on the penalty area. His left-footed shot found the back of the net against charging Monument goalkeeper Kevin Kelly (three saves).

“That little triangle between LaFleur, (Connor) Bagdon and (Zach) Hamilton is really tough to defend,” admitted Monument Mountain coach Matt Naventi of Frontier’s big guns. “The combinations they play, they can keep you off balance. We gave away that goal in the first half and that changed things into the second half.”

Tim Barrington made it 3-0 in the 59th minute, as the Frontier offense really cashed in on its opportunities. LaFleur and Hamilton set things up, working a nice give-and-go that ultimately ended with Barrington tipping in a shot on the back post.

Hamilton continued the offensive spree with just seven minutes remaining in regulation. Connor Waitkus did the heavy lifting on the final goal for the Hawks, charging up the right side and slid a pass across. LaFleur eventually found Hamilton, who placed a shot into the corner for a commanding 4-0 lead.

Monument got on the board for its only tally with 2:16 remaining in the game. Lacombe finished off a wild scramble in the box, slotting a low shot through traffic and past Frontier goalkeeper Peter Bronke (two saves) to account for the 4-1 final.

“I wouldn’t say (the second half) was our best half of the season possession-wise or anything like that, but I think it was by far our most intense half of the season,” Totman explained. “We finished better today than we have all year. I told the guys, ‘You have to finish in the playoffs,’ and it was nice to see us be able to do that.”

Frontier, which held a 14-10 advantage in shots, played Monument to a 1-1 draw in the season-opener on Sept. 7. A lot has changed for both teams since that contest.

“I think we knew what to expect from Frontier having played that game, but they’ve built up their style of play and their attack a lot since then,” Naventi admitted. “They played a lot more possession and short passes tonight. It was a lot more effective.”

The three-goal cushion was a welcomed result for Totman and his team, which have quite the history of playing tight postseason games over the years.

“The last two years it seems like we’re always sweating out these close games, so to win by a significant margin in the tournament, that’s a nice feeling,” Totman offered.

Top-seeded Belchertown and No. 4 Mount Greylock Regional High School will meet tonight in the other semifinal (6 p.m., Szot Park).