CHESHIRE -- The Easthampton girls' soccer team has focused on defense all season, and Hoosac Valley saw first hand how good the Eagles can be.
The Eagles held the Hurricanes off the scoreboard for almost 75 minutes, before Meg Rodowicz scored. It wasn't enough to rally Hoosac past Easthampton in a 2-1 Eagles win in a Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon.
"It's hard. I didn't think we'd lose this way. I thought it would be at Westfield or something," Rodowicz said. "It is what it is, and I'm happy with what we've done this season, happy with where we've been, how far we've come.
"We started out as a team that wasn't really anything, and we came to this team that's unbelievable. We just exceeded my expectations this year."
Rodowicz's goal with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left was only the seventh allowed by Easthampton in 17 games this season.
The Eagles' defense was tested early as Hoosac dominated the opening 20 minutes and had several good scoring opportunities. It was Easthampton that found the back of the net -- on their first shot, no less.
Easthampton had a set piece to the right of the 18-yard box. Jen Szafir swung it in, and Angela Nardi converted from the middle of the box with a nice volley, leaving keeper Megan Richardson no chance.
From then on, the Eagles played aggressive soccer and won the lion's share of the 50-50 balls. That coupled with their tight marking made life miserable for Hoosac as it tried to draw even.
It actually caused the Hurricanes to stray from what's worked so well for them: Possession, high-percentage passes and crosses into the box.
"We were playing long balls, which we do do that, but we can't do that with them because the marked us tight," Rodowicz said. "So what we had to do was play more possession, play out to the wings and then cross it in. But we were just playing long balls."
It played right into Easthampton's defense-first and win-the-next-ball mentality.
Then the Eagles got another scoring chance and took advantage again, for a 2-0 lead. Willow Ross crossed a great ball into the box, and Maddie Grabowski found room for herself before connecting on the back end.
"That's where we start -- defensively. And then we look to try and possess and build in the midfield and maybe spring a Maddie Grabowski or someone off like that," Easthampton coach Brian Miller said. "So it is sort of a transition kind of opportunities we look for."
The 2-0 lead let Easthampton settle into its defensive formation even more. Content to let Hoosac possess on the outside, the Eagles pressured every pass, often times getting to it first. The Hurricanes simply couldn't match the intensity until desperation set it.
When it did, Easthampton slacked on its pressure and the Hurricanes found themselves within a goal of forcing overtime.
Rodowicz struggled all game to find space to operate, thanks in large part to Katelyn Nardi's close marking. When she was able to find room inside of 25 yards, she didn't hesitate to shoot. But it was the one time she freed herself in the box that got Hoosac on the scoreboard.
She received a throw-in deep in Easthampton's half, made a quick move at the edge of the 18 and had no one between her and the keeper. A routine inside-foot finish with 6:38 to go had Hoosac feeling good.
The Hurricanes maintained their intensity, but Easthampton regained theirs, and secured the upset.
"It's tough, but you can't look at seeding-wise. You really can't. It's anyone's game. It's anyone's to win in this tournament," Hoosac's McKenzie Robinson said. "Yeah, it really does suck because everyone thought we were going to win. But just like basketball, the underdog, they can always come back and sting you."
Easthampton 2 0 -- 2
Hoosac Valley 0 1 -- 1
EH -- Angela Nardi (Jen Szafir), 18:05.
EH -- Maddie Grabowski (Willow Ross), 34:49.
HV -- Meg Rodowicz (UA), 73:22.
Saves -- EH: Alyssa Fugiel 6; HV: Megan Richardson 8.