GRANBY -- Sara Middleton’s exceptional effort in goal was not enough to extend the Lee girls soccer team’s season.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats’ season came to an end Tuesday with a 2-0 loss to No. 4 Granby in the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament.
Junior Kate Desormier and eighth-grader Erin Mikalchus scored for the Rams (17-0-1), who will face No. 1 Lenox (12-4-2) later this week.
"We thought that with how well we played this season, we wouldn’t have to play someone as good as Lee in our first game, and it was a tough game but I think it’s going to help us as the tournament goes on," Granby coach Nick Boorman said.
Lee finished 7-8-3.
"I told them in the beginning of the game, ‘You have to leave everything on the field, you have to play your hearts out, and if the end result isn’t the way we wanted, so be it,’ " Lee coach Lauren Finnegan said.
Middleton, who served as a backup goalie until this year, kept her team in the game with nine saves, including a number of difficult ones.
On one occasion, the Rams’ Tara Mikalchus ripped a hard, low shot to the far post from close range. The ball seemed destined for the right side of the net, but Middleton dove and redirected the ball out of harm’s way.
"This, by far, was her best game. She was incredible today," Finnegan said.
The majority of the first half was played evenly until Desormier scored in the 34th minute to break the tie. Boorman called a timeout to talk strategy just before the goal.
"We made a few slight changes and we kind of carried it after that," Boorman said.
The goal started on the foot of Brooke Labrie, the Rams’ top scorer. She dished a pass off to Erin Mikalchus, who sent the ball over to an unmarked Desormier. Desormier floated a shot past Middleton to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Despite the 1-0 deficit, Finnegan felt her team had the advantage in the first half.
"I feel like we took them out of their game and had a lot of control in the first half," Finnegan said. "Even after that second goal, I feel like we had opportunities."
Granby pushed its lead to 2-0 just over five minutes into the second frame.
Junior Tara Mikalchus started with the ball on the left side of the field. She flicked a high cross to the middle of the 18, where her sister, Erin Mikalchus, sprinted unmarked toward the ball and one-timed it past a helpless Middleton.
"That was a great ball by Tara. It was nice to see those two connect," Boorman said.
Granby threatened throughout the remainder of the game as they totaled 10 second-half shots, but Middleton held her ground.
On the other side, the back line of Noelle Menard, Alex White and Alexis Ouellette preserved the Rams’ lead.
"I would say our defense is the best in western Mass.," Desormier said. "I’d give them the credit."
The defensive unit protected Brittany Hauschild, who made just four saves.
"We’ve only allowed five goals all season, and that’s because we play great team defense," Boorman said.
The Rams are looking for redemption against Lenox, which beat them 1-0 in last year’s Western Mass. final.
"We are looking forward to that, they are a very good team," Boorman said. "We’ll be ready for them, and I know they’ll be ready for us."