Monument Mountain boys soccer team blanks Hampshire to advance in Western Massachusetts Division III tournament
GREAT BARRINGTON — The six-seed Monument Mountain boys soccer team used a confident defense and picturesque passing to knock off visiting Hampshire Regional 3-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Robert Baldwin tallied three points, including a pair of goals, while Wilson Sprague and Tristan Alston formed an impenetrable perimeter around Kevin Kelly's 18-yard box. The senior 'keeper needed to make just two real saves in a shutout effort that sends the Spartans into the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament.
Monument will travel to take on No. 3 Frontier in the quarters, after the Red Hawks received a Round 1 bye.
"We had time, and our goal was to just stay composed and not get caught on the long ball," said Alston of the defense that snuffed out Hampshire. "We wanted to talk to the guys in front of us and really command the game, stay positive and not let up at all."
With things in hand on the back end, Monument's offense was able to earn some style points and get back on track after a shaky finish to the regular season.
Each goal the Spartans scored was prettier than their previous and Baldwin had a hand in all three. With 18 minutes remaining in the first half, Monument's Nate Lacombe put a ball in the Red Raiders box from along the end line. Hampshire got hold of it, but the clear attempt popped out to Patrick Yeung at the right corner. He caught the eye of a streaking Baldwin and lofted a cross that allowed the tall attacker to bat the ball down into the net with a header.
For his next trick, the senior captain put a through ball on a string and guided it deftly in between Lacombe and defender Andrew Cebula as the two raced shoulder-to-shoulder at the Hampshire net. Lacombe touched first and blasted a shot by Colin Boyle for the 2-0 lead with 16:35 remaining in the game.
"I was just trying to find the open space. We tried a new formation today and it opened up a lot of space against this particular team and got us out of a rough patch that we'd been having," said Baldwin.
With an insurance goal in the bank, Monument's offense had one more performance before the curtains fell. In the 73rd minute, Kosta Cami launched a long throw from the sideline deep in Hampshire territory. Moving left to right, Ben Badurski kept things flowing with a pass across the box to Baldwin, who used a strong kick to go top-shelf and put the first-round game away.
"We know we've been scouted and had a lot of teams come look at us, so we changed a lot to give teams a different look and it paid off today," said Monument coach Matt Naventi. "The second goal was big. We missed a couple golden opportunities early in the second half and you can't let teams linger. They hit the post, put a little pressure on us. It relieves that pressure and opened the game up, which is what we needed."
Despite the 3-0 final, the Spartans played more than 63 minutes of Saturday's playoff-opener either deadlocked or with a slim one-goal lead on Hampshire. What kept the game in hand was the work of Sprague and Alston on the back line and a strong possession-based midfield game. During a five-minute stretch after Baldwin's first strike, the Red Raiders earned three corner kicks and a freebie from 40 yards out on the left side. All of those set plays resulted in a Monument first-touch, usually the head of Alston, and a relatively simple clear.
Hampshire had a shot to knot things up with plenty of time left, but Justin Szwajkowstel's boot met the crossbar seven minutes into the second half.
"It worked fairly well. I'm impressed with a couple of young guys stepping up out wide," said Alston. "Once you get to this point, every game is going to be a battle. We're going to keep working, focus on the next game and show people what we have."
Hampshire 0 0 — 0
Monument Mountain 1 2 — 3
MM — Robert Baldwin (Patrick Yeung), 22:31.
MM — Nate Lacombe (Baldwin), 63:25.
MM — Baldwin (Ben Badurski), 72:58.
Saves — H: Derek Barber, 3 and Colin Boyle, 2. MM: Kevin Kelly, 2.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter or 413-496-6240.