WEST SPRINGFIELD — It was always going to be tough sledding for the No. 4 Lee girls soccer team in Thursday's Western Massachusetts Division III semifinal against No. 1 Monson. Just how difficult the task was became apparent as the game got underway.
"We are very proud of [our team]," Lee coach Lauren Finnegan said. "[Monson] are a spectacular team. I'm not going to take anything away from them ... I'm going to give kudos where they deserve, and that's that Monson is a great soccer team."
Monson showed its dominance from the start. After Lee's Maddie Graziano opened with a charging run into the Monson defense, the Mustangs responded with a constant stream of pressure. The first goal came in the eighth minute through Megan McGuill. A second followed 10 minutes in on a finish from Haley Richard, and from there Monson was off and rolling.
"It was important for us to come out and we talked about possessing the ball, settling it down," Monson coach Eric Degnan said. "I thought we did a great job at creating some opportunities in their final third. We got a couple of quick ones that relaxes you a little bit."
Before the half was out, Bee Murphy got on the scoresheet and with just over four to go in the half, Jen Fabrycki scored Monson's fourth.
Finnegan saw Monson's dominance, especially on the wings, from her spot on the sideline, but wasn't surprised that her team couldn't quite handle what was happening.
"I think it's so much easier to be on the sidelines and see it all happening and direct them," Finnegan said. "You could see it happening from where we were standing. I think when they are in the moment and playing, they just couldn't handle the passing right now Speed hurt us, the speed of the ball hurt us, and then we started playing scared when we got down a few goals."
Lee managed to carve out a few chances in the second half for a consolation goal, but the Wildcats couldn't quite get the finishing touch right. The best chance came through Karli Retzel, who put a foot on a free kick but sent it just wide of the net.
In goal, Brianna Hawley stopped eight shots. Coach Finnegan praised Hawley's game despite the lopsided score. Monson's Emily Garon had zero stops, and her younger sister Hannah finished out the final 15 minutes.
Overall, Finnegan felt the season was a success. Fielding a relatively young side, Lee finished at 9-9-2.
"The more time we get to spend in quarterfinals and semifinals with a young team, the more experience we get being able to handle situations like this," Finnegan said. "That's the biggest thing. Coming back next year, they've done this already ... I think this experience is going to be huge for them."
Monson now advances to play No. 2 Lenox on Sunday in the Division III championship game. Degnan said he expects a tough game, but anticipates his side will be up for the challenge.
"I know that any team that comes out of the Berkshires is always tested," Degnan said. "They had a great game against Gateway the other night. I know the [Alessandra] Arace girl can flat out play with the best of the best. We're going to have to be prepared for that."
M—McGuill (Fabrycki), 7:31. M—Richard (Jarvis), 9:39. M—Fabian (Murphy), 24:49. M—Fabrycki (UA), 35:38
M—Fabrycki (Murphy), 54:16. M—Fabrycki (McGuill), 55:45. M—Pagan (Murphy), 58:45.
Saves—L: Hawley 8. M: E. Garon 0, H. Garon 0