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Conor Dempsey (16) and the Pittsfield boys soccer team had a tough time in the opener against Matt Chmura and Minnechaug, dropping a 4-0 decision on Wednesday.
Thursday September 6, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- As season-opening opponents go, Minnechaug was a formidable one for the Pittsfield High School boys soccer team. The Falcons were a 10-win team a season ago, reaching the Western Mass. Division I quarterfinals.

That doesn't make a 4-0 loss any easier to take for coach Andrew Antil and his players.

"I think everybody's upset about this one," Antil said Wednesday at Kirvin Park. "I don't think we've lost by four since we had the Longmeadow game last year. This one kind of hurts. We can only go up from here."

Minnechaug created many more chances than the Generals in the first half, using its superior speed to its advantage and taking a 3-0 lead into the break. Chaug's forwards made the most of their movement along the wings, but didn't convert until a Kory Caster penalty kick past PHS senior keeper Bahati Mweze with 24 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first half.

"It's tough running the wing, because it's a lot of running," Antil said. "You've got to play defense, offense and everything in between. You just keep cycling guys in and out to keep them fresh."

From there, the Falcons added two more first-half scores. Matt Chmura was credited with a goal that deflected off the foot of PHS defender Christian Sutherland with 5:15 left, and Nick Dailey converted on a cross from Connor Courtney to make the score 3-0 with 2:34 left in the half.

Andrew Smith had Minnechaug's second-half goal, scoring at the 47:07 mark.

"This is a really good team we played today," Antil said. "If we're going to compete with the top teams in [Berkshire County], we're going to have to compete with these guys."

PHS will get its first in-season look at what the county has to offer on Friday, when it hosts Monument Mountain. Antil knows the Spartans have a big roster, but isn't as concerned about the opponent as he is about his side.

The coach doesn't expect to change anything in his game plan.

"It's how we execute it [and] with how much aggression," he said. "Pretty much any team can beat any team on the right day."

Mweze made seven saves for Pittsfield before sophomore Harrison Rapant came in around the 60-minute mark. Rapant stopped three shots. Mweze is one of seven new starters for Pittsfield, and is one of eight seniors on the roster.

Minnechaug had the advantage in corner kicks, 6 to 4, but the Generals' setup looked solid from those corners. Ultimately, it was Minnechaug's possession control that gave it the edge.

"They just played more aggressive," Antil said. "They wanted it more in the first half. All those teams from the Valley, from that division with Ludlow and Amherst, they play at a pretty high level. They usually have a lot of guys. They're big in size, they're fast and they're well-disciplined."

The coach added that he believes the Generals now know how physical and disciplined they need to be to win. As for motivation, they'll only have to look at Wednesday's score.

"I hope it does [motivate them]," Antil said. "It should. It fires me up."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.