Photo Gallery | Pittsfield tops Monument Mountain in boys soccer opener
GREAT BARRINGTON — The Pittsfield boys soccer team knew opening night at Monument Mountain was going to be a test.
The Generals just passed.
Senior Jackson Rich tucked home a goal with just under two minutes to go in the first half, and his tally stood through the second half to lift Pittsfield to a 1-0 win over the Spartans in Great Barrington.
"We wanted to come here and win," Rich said. "We knew [Monument] were going to throw bodies at us, they are a super-athletic team and they go hard to everything. It was a battle, and we were ready for it."
Pittsfield (1-0, 1-0 Berkshire North) withstood an early charge from Monument, and after 10 minutes of play the Generals found their flow in the game and began attacking. Pittsfield first came close to scoring through Evan Dempsey, then with 13:10 left in the half Vinny Coppola thought he had the opener in the back of Kevin Kelly's net. That goal, though, was ruled offside.
12 minutes later, and the Generals' pressure finally paid off.
Sam Higuera set up the play with a long throw-in. Rich managed to corral the ball, knock it into a sliver of space and fire low and to Kelly's left.
"That was Jackson for most of the game," Pittsfield coach Andrew Antil said of Rich's goal. "He was getting opportunities, maybe taking one too many touches, but when you've got skill like that you want to get the good shot and make it count."
Monument coach Matt Naventi admitted that giving up the goal right before half hurt, but also that he expected Pittsfield to break through after all of the pressure the Generals applied.
"[The goal] did [hurt] to an extent, but we were asking for it," Naventi said. "We weren't pressing well defensively, we had made a few other errors. We got lucky on the offsides call.
"They were knocking on the door. You can't get lucky all the time, and they earned it."
In the second half, Pittsfield controlled the flow of the game over the first 25 minutes, then spent the last 15 hunkered down in its own defensive third.
"I think our defense was solid," Antil said. "I think we stopped them pretty well. I was telling them, good defense, you don't have to prevent mistakes — mistakes are going to happen — but it's how you clean up after them, and that's what we did extremely well. We made plenty of mistakes out there, but our guys were there to pick up after each other."
Monument, meanwhile, had to battle two opponents in the second half — Pittsfield and their own emotions.
Just under four minutes into the second half, Sam Seckler made a last-ditch clearance to deny Rich when Rich was nearly in on goal. A minute later, Matt Amstead received a yellow card, and seconds later Mitch Amstead also received a yellow card.
Monument's best chance on Jon Bile's goal ironically came just after the pair of yellow cards. Rob Baldwin started the play with a pass up the field to Noel Powell, and Powell managed to wiggle free from his defender for a shot. The shot, though, went straight at Bile, who smothered it to end the threat.
Monument amped up its pressure as the clock ticked on, but Pittsfield held just long enough to hear the final whistle and record the clean sheet.
"I was so happy with our composure," Rich said. "First of all, we didn't give up a goal. Second of all, we didn't get into it, didn't get any cards. Cards last year, towards the end of the season, were almost an issue. So getting out of this game without any cards was very important."
Naventi said after the game that a win would have been ideal, but for everything that went wrong, he did take some positives away from the game.
"We've got some problems to solve," Naventi said. "But, y'know, against a team that just won the Pioneer Valley [summer league] against the best teams in Western Mass. ... Pittsfield's a very good team. They're going to handle a lot of teams this year. We lost 1-0 and created some decent looks in the second half. We'll figure a few things out and be alright."
Kelly stopped seven shots in the loss, while Bile had to make just two saves to record his clean sheet. Pittsfield returns to action on Thursday at home against Wahconah. Monument, meanwhile, travels to Lenox on Thursday.
PHS — Jackson Rich (Sam Higuera), 38:39.
Saves — PHS: Jon Bile 2. MM: Kevin Kelly 7.