Panther’s win, 2-1, advance to semifinals

For The Recorder
Monday, November 06, 2017

SHEFFIELD — The Western Massachusetts Division IV Boys’ Soccer Tournament quarterfinal matchup between Mount Everett Regional School and Pioneer Valley Regional School started in a light rain. By halftime, the players were competing in a full downpour, turning parts of the pitch into mud and compromising the player’s footing.

Unstable footing, especially on defense, can be costly. Pioneer forward Dana McRae made the Everett defense pay for taking a false step.

McRae stepped up to take a corner kick midway through the second half. No. 3 Everett goalkeeper Patrick Silk came forward and McRae sent a hard shot to the short post. On a dry field, maybe Silk makes the stop, but Everett’s keeper could only get a hand on the ball as it slipped by him and into the goal for the eventual game-winner, giving No. 6 Pioneer a 2-1 victory on Monday.

McRae said he formulated his plan of attack after watching Silk’s movements on a earlier corner kick.

“From the previous corner, Jack (Loud) wanted a near-post run, so I tried to play him a hard pass on the ground and I saw the goalie come way out,” McRae said. “So I thought, I’ll say same thing (on the next corner), the goalie will run out the same way and I’ll whip it by him. And it was on target, the goalie tried to get there late but he didn’t get there.”

The goal put the Eagles on their heels as they scrambled for the equalizer. Pioneer did a great job of preventing the Eagles from getting any good looks at the goal. The final two minutes were even more frantic as Everett’s entire team pushed forward. Time after time, the Panthers were in position to kick the ball away, as precious seconds continued to tick off the clock, allowing them to hold on for the win.

“Regardless of the weather, if we finish on a couple opportunities, lock down a little better defensively, I think we have a better result,” Everett coach Josh King said. “Obviously the last goal they scored, could it have been a factor with it being wet? Maybe. Still, if we get somebody on the front post, that ball never gets through anyway.”

Pioneer’s Jordan Loughman started the scoring on a well-placed goal to the top-left corner with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first half. Then Nikos Casivant’s first-half goal tied the score heading into halftime. There was a scramble in front of the net as Pioneer keeper Ryan Underwood made the initial stop. Casivant raced to the ball, firing a sliding shot off the rebound into the net.

Everett’s Cavan Brady had a solid look off a free kick in the 36th minute, but Pioneer keeper Underwood made the save on the curving shot.

McRae said the field condition added some unpredictability to the game.

“The field is dirty so it gets so hard to turn, especially in the midfield,” he said. “You have to be ready for anything, because the ball could skip any which way. Just getting traction is that much harder.”

Pioneer (14-2-1) advanced to the Division IV semifinals against No. 2 Lenox Memorial High School (11-5-3), Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Holyoke High School.

“This is something we talked about at the end of last season,” explained Pioneer coach Don Fraser of the win. “We wanted to get a postseason win; multiple postseason wins. Both teams played hard. It was a very good, very physical game and it was pouring for three-quarters of it. We just had that one more opportunity and took the game home.”