Thursday November 15, 2012

WESTFIELD -- Tears were shed at the Lenox bench minutes after the Millionaires fell in the MIAA state Division III girls soccer semifinal game Wednesday night.

The tears were for the outcome of the 2-0 win by Central Massachusetts champion Sutton, not for the effort that Lenox coach Matt Cote said his team put forth.

"We knew we had a chance," Cote said. "We thought we had a chance. Every one of these girls believed we had a chance, and in fact, we did. That's a good team we played today. Sutton is great.

"They're 11 strong plus. When you think of the expression 'Leave it out on the field,' I think that's what you saw from my team. That's what it's been like for the past couple of months."

The Suzies broke up a scoreless tie on a goal by Rachel Fox with six minutes left in the first half. Cierra Dubinsky added a second-half goal as the Millionaires' season ended one game shy of the ultimate goal -- playing for a state championship.

"I'm so proud of everybody. We worked really hard," said Lenox's Hayden Zinchuk. "From the beginning of the season, all we did was improve. We did the best we could."

The Suzies had 16 shots on net and forced Lenox goalkeeper Kathy Prescott to make six saves. The Millionaires were held shotless in the first half and had two in the game. That did not mean, however, that they were without scoring chances.

The key to the game was Sutton's defensive strength. Sutton defenders Elaina Falcone and Sarah Hall were keys in the 3-5-2 (from the back) Sutton alignment. The Suzies dropped midfielders back to clog the middle and that forced Lenox to go outside.

Sutton coach David Payne said that helped negate the Lenox speed that he admitted he was very concerned about.

"They are very fast. Alessandra [Arace] is very fast. Tova [Brown] is very fast. I think the thing for us was really trying to read the line well," Payne said. "We knew we weren't going to be able to run straight with them up and down the field. It had to be [about] seeing the lines the ball would be played into. Positioning was the thing for us.

"We have two seniors [Falcone and Hall] in the back. Both have been here. They have been in the state final two years ago, so they know how to handle speed pretty well."

The Millionaires had an opportunity to take the air out of Sutton's balloon early. Four minutes into the game, Arace carried the ball down the sideline and sent a pass into the middle of the field. Grace Fitzgerald tried to run on the pass, but Elaina Falcone booted the ball away from the goalie -- her sister Natalia -- and out of danger.

Fourteen minutes into the game, Zinchuk took Lenox's first corner kick. She dropped the ball into the box and Natalia Falcone appeared to be out of position, but the ball was cleared out before Brown could get a shot off.

"They're very strong defenders," said Cote. "When you have strong defenders, you have the luxury of bumping up the midfielders. We recognized that early on.

"They didn't make any mistakes. That's what it takes to win state championships."

Sutton got on the board at the 33:52 mark when Fox nudged the ball past Prescott by the right post. The Millionaires couldn't clear the ball, and while some thought Prescott had control, the goal counted.

The inability to clear a ball cost the Millionaires in the second half as Sutton's second goal was similar to its first.

Kane got the assist on Dubinsky's goal, as the Sutton forward was parked near the left post and Prescott had no chance.

Prescott made a great save on a shot by Alexa Elworthy 12 minutes into the second half. That gave the Millionaires a little momentum, but they could not take advantage of it.

"Nothing diminishes how I feel about those kids and the season," Cote said. "Everyone knew going into this game, win or lose, that we have already accomplished well more than we set out to accomplish.

"In a way, just being here was gravy."

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Lenox 0 0 -- 0

Sutton 1 1 -- 2

First Half

S--Rachel Fox (UA), 33:52.

Second Half

S--Cierra Dubinsky (Sarah Kane), 64:51.

Saves--L: Kathy Prescott 6. S: Natalia Falcone 2.