CHICOPEE -- In a back-and-forth game that seemed fated to be decided in extra time, Smith Academy's Nathaniel Hanson scored off a corner kick with a little less than four minutes left in regulation to stun top seed Lenox, 1-0 in a Western Mass. Division III semifinal at Szot Park on Saturday.
The fourth-seeded Falcons (13-4-2) now face Hopkins Academy in Monday's final. Lenox, the three-time defending Western Mass. Division III champion, finishes at 7-7-5.
Following a scoreless first half, the Millionaires actually had the edge in play through much of the second. They outshot Smith 8-3 in that span, and had some good chances.
But with 3:59 left in the contest, Smith was awarded a corner kick. The Falcons' Tyler Gay lofted a curving pass into the middle of the box, and Hanson headed the ball in.
"We work on it in practice all the time, and Tyler delivered a perfect pass," said Hanson. "He got the ball to me right where I wanted it."
"[Hanson] was able to get free of his marker," said Lenox coach Scott Chadwick of the score. "He made a good run and it was a good pass."
With time running out, the Millionaires ratcheted up the pressure. The top seeds got off a couple good shots, but Smith goalie Cam Woodward made some stout saves.
With less than a minute left, Lenox's Seamus Ryan lashed a high shot that just cleared Woodward's fingers. But it hit the post and bounded back into play as Lenox fans groaned.
"We had a lot of chances, but we couldn't crack them," said Chadwick.
The first half was a little more back-and-forth. Lenox's Alex Pratt had two good chances, and Smith's leading scorer, Derek McMahon, got behind the defense, but Millionaires goalie Trevor Hathaway stoned him.
The Millionaires' signature short passing game usually discombobulates an opponent sooner or later. But to the Falcons' credit, their backs remained in position most of the game. Smith was not above being a bit physical to knock the Millionaires off the ball.
"They were a little physical, and that's not our game," said Chadwick. "But that's soccer."
Both Alex Bennett and Andrew Vickery had some good chances in the second half, but did not connect.
Hathaway had six saves for the Millionaires, while Woodward had 13.
Lenox 0 0 -- 0
Smith 0 1 -- 1
S -- Nathaniel Hanson (Tyler Gay) 3:59.
Saves -- Lenox: Trevor Hathaway 6. Smith: Cam Woodward 13.