Senators lose OT heartbreaker

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

ORANGE — There are times when a coach doesn’t need many words to express the way he thought his team played following a season-ending playoff loss.

It took just three words for Mahar Regional School coach Chad Softic to do just that Tuesday night following his team’s 2-1 overtime loss to Southwick-Tolland Regional High School in the WMass Division III quarterfinals at the Woodward Complex.

“We deserved better,” he told his team as they huddled together following the heart-breaking loss, a light snow falling to further signal the end of the fall season for the team.

Despite holding a decided edge in possession and coming back to tie the game late after allowing a fluky goal early in the game, the Senators season ended less than four minutes into the first overtime. What had been a tightly defended game opened up a bit in the overtime, as each team got a quality chance to score before Autumn Waitt ended the game 3 minutes, 17 seconds into the extra period. The goal came after a counter-strike by the fifth-seeded Rams (10-4-5) that saw midfielder Karli Langan take a pass about 25 yards out from the Mahar goal that appeared destined to be a routine save by Senators’ goalie Elysha Bedard. But Waitt had other plans. After being tightly marked throughout the game, the Rams’ sniper made a run toward the front of the Mahar goal and Langan’s shot deflected off Waitt’s legs and past Bedard to send the Rams off with the victory.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Softic said. “We got caught on a trailer running down the middle of the field and that girl is a scorer. She’s a savvy enough player, and she saw it and made the play on it and that was it.

“The ball got shot on net,” he continued. “Most kids kind of watch and see if the goalie makes the save, but she redirected it almost like Cam Neely in hockey. It would have been a routine save for Elysha but the girl got a foot on it.”

The goal ended what had been a terrific season for the Senators (13-3-4), who moved up to the Pioneer North Division this season and won the league crown, helping earn the Senators the fourth seed in the tournament, their highest in recent memory. They looked every bit worthy of the seed against the Rams, controlling play for much of the contest but struggling to penetrate a tough Southwick defense, including Krista Girroir, who was a wall in the back and helped shut down Mahar sniper Delaney Parker. Girroir was also a threat on offense, as her flip-throw on throw in helped create several of Southwick’s best chances to score.

“Their back four was outstanding and they did a good job of neutralizing Delaney,” Softic said. “At the same time, we did own field position for a lot of the game. The only stretch I was disappointed in was that first 10 minutes (of the game). We were playing tight, and no one wanted to make a play.”

The early-game lapse led to a quick goal by the Rams. A failed clearing attempt by the Mahar defense gave Southwick a chance and Aelish McGivney fired a rocket from the top of the box that Bedard made a full-extension diving save on. The goalie attempted to control the rebound but never had full control of the ball and Waitt was Johnny on the spot, as she booted it home for a 1-0 lead just before the game turned four minutes old.

Mahar upped its play the remainder of the first half and into the second and finally got the game-tying goal with 15 minutes, 25 seconds to play. The goal came after sustained pressure and the Rams attempted to clear the ball but Mahar’s Kianna Reilly got to the ball in front of the Mahar bench 30 yards away from goal and one-timed the ball toward the Southwick net. The pass bounced in front of Parker and a Southwick defender, took a bounce over both of their heads and went towards the penalty stripe, where Katie Cleveland ran onto it and headed it over Southwick goalie Hannah Gerrish, who was rushing off the goal line.

Cleveland left the game with a knee injury before the end of regulation. Mahar outshot Southwick, 14-9, in the contest. Gerrish stopped seven shots in the win, while Bedard made five saves in the loss.

Southwick advanced to Thursday night’s semifinals to take on top-seeded South Hadley High School.