PITTSFIELD — As any playoff team will tell you, the seeds handed out at the beginning of the tournament matter little once the action starts.
The Pittsfield boys soccer team found that out the hard way on Wednesday, as the sixth-seeded Generals twice coughed up a one-goal lead to No. 11 Chicopee Comp before falling 3-2 in the Western Massachusetts Division I tournament opening round.
"We came in thinking [Chicopee Comp] were going to be easy, but obviously they showed up ready to play a tournament game," Pittsfield coach Andrew Antil said. "We showed up thinking it was going to be something else."
Mike Holmes used a penalty kick to give Pittsfield (11-4-4) a lead four minutes into the game. After a Colt (9-8-2) equalizer, Holmes hit on a quickly-taken free kick with 25:27 left in the first half. But once again, Chicopee Comp found an answer. Then, in the second half, Anthony Stepno scored his second goal of the day on a long free kick sent into the box to lift the Colts to the upset.
"We knew there were going to be a lot of goals scored," Chicopee Comp coach Ryan Dunphy said. "We talked to them about responding well to whatever. It's not about the action, it's about how you react and I thought [my team] reacted well."
The loss marks the end of a Jekyll and Hyde season for the Generals. After opening 8-1-0, Pittsfield won just three games over the second half of the season as it tried to deal with an injury to Louis Higuera.
"Maybe we got ahead of ourselves and thought we could get away just on skill," Antil said. "We started to get frustrated, we stopped playing our game. We stopped playing it simple, stopped playing it smart. I think just the overall effort was not where it needed to be."
Pittsfield looked to get off on the right foot Wednesday, when Jamie Rosiello's early shot led to a hand ball in the box, and Holmes' penalty kick.
But almost immediately on the restart, the Colts got the goal back. On a short corner kick, Brady Seymour picked up possession and whipped a low effort across the face of goal, which Stepno was able to get on the end of to beat Jon Bile (2 saves).
Pittsfield grabbed the lead back with just over 25 to go in the half on a well-taken free kick from Holmes, who struck the ball quickly to catch Chicopee Comp goalie Kurtis Hilton off his line. Chicopee Comp responded, though, when Anthony Marafuga set up Kristopher Lovely.
"It's all about the ones you finish, and I was happy that when they got in that position a couple of guys who really didn't score a lot of goals this year came through for us," Dunphy said.
In the second half, Pittsfield got the first good look for either side through Sean Baruch, but Hilton was there to make one of his eight saves.
Chicopee Comp got the winner with 28:51 to go on another set piece. This time from a free kick, Andrew Mercer lifted the ball high into the box and Stepno was the first one to meet the ball, guiding a header around Bile.
Pittsfield threw everything it had at the Chicopee Comp defense as the game wore on, but every Pittsfield shot either went begging wide or right into the hands of Hilton.
"He played a great game and did what he needed to do but every shot we had was right at him," Antil said of Hilton. "Our effort wasn't there. We can shoot really well and we weren't doing it today."
Chicopee Comp now advances to play No. 3 Amherst on Friday.
P—Holmes (PK), 4:01. C—Stepno (Seymour), 6:25. P—Holmes (UA), 14:33. C—Lovely (Marafuga), 23:30.
C—Stepno (Mercer), 51:09.
Saves — P: Bile 2. C: Hilton 8.