Monument Mountain girls soccer team rolls by Putnam to advance in Western Massachusetts Division III tournament

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MIKE WALSH - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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GREAT BARRINGTON — As the No. 3 seed in a 14-team bracket, the Monument Mountain girls soccer team didn't earn a first-round bye.

Instead, the Spartans got to stretch their legs, work on some things and put on a show for their hometown crowd in a resounding 6-0 win over No. 14 Putnam Saturday night under the lights.

In what amounted to a tune-up game for Monument, coach Jess Platt's girls rolled off five goals before halftime and had five different goal scorers overall. The Spartans advanced into the Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinals where they will meet No. 6 Wahconah on Tuesday, after the Warriors knocked off Palmer, 4-0, with four separate scorers themselves. Monument topped its Berkshire North rival in both 2017 meetings; 2-0 on Sept. 14 and 2-1 on Oct. 9.

"I think we're all just really excited to play in the tournament. It's a lot of fun to be out on that field with my teammates," said junior attacker Aubrey Blanchard. "We didn't mind it. It is good to have that positivity going forward and the confidence. Hopefully that will pay off in the long run."

Blanchard netted two goals in the first half, including the initial strike off a feed from Gabi DeFelice. The junior defender came up to take a free kick and Monument just played the hits, finding success on a set play that has yielded strong results all season long. DeFelice put it in the box and Blanchard used her speed and agility to get through a defender for the goal.

When it came to open play, however, the Spartans initially struggled to get their offense going. After a 2-0 shutout loss to Pittsfield ended its regular season a full week prior, Monument looked a little harried on the scoring end, with countless shots being blasted high or wide when scoring opportunities against the Beavers appeared readily available.

"I think we were just trying to put balls as close to the goal as possible. We wanted to be high-pressured and put them on their heels early," said Platt. "I thought we were passing well and finding each other on the field. That Gabi to Aubrey combination has been happening all season long."

Following a 25-minute stretch that saw a lot more even play than a No. 3 vs. No. 14 matchup would seem to breed, Putnam called a timeout. The move proved to be a mistake on the Beavers' part, as the Spartans regrouped and came out with a more fine-tuned approach. The results were both positive and abundant.

With 13 minutes and 42 seconds left in the half, Zufan Bazzano accepted a centering pass from Anna Romano and put the Spartans ahead 2-0. Less than a minute later, Blanchard struck again, this time on a helper by Bazzano and Monument was off to the races with a bunch of free releases into the opponent's zone.

In the 33rd minute, Meri Powell got in on the action with a strong drive to the end line before crossing to the back post, where Romano charged in on Anna Ramos-Morales and punched one by the Putnam goalie.

Bazzano tacked on a third point for her big night with a long pass into open space on the attack inside the five-minute mark. Powell beat Ramos-Morales to the loose ball and scored on the empty net to push Monument ahead 5-0 before the break.

The offensive show continued out of the second half gates, with Molly Flynn scoring on a line drive from the right side with an assist from Lauren Kinne in the 43rd minute. The Spartans emptied their bench and got some rest over the final 37 minutes, while waiting to see if their neighbors to the north would handle Palmer and make reservations for a third meeting Tuesday night in Great Barrington.

"I think we're just trying to hit our stride, play Monument Mountain soccer and win games," said Platt. "We'll see what we can do. Have more than one more, hopefully."

———

Putnam     0     0          0

Monument Mountain     5     1          6

First Half

MM — Aubrey Blanchard (Gabi DeFelice), 4:15. MM — Zufan Bazzano (Anna Romano), 26:18. MM — Blanchard (Bazzano), 27:12. MM — Romano (Meri Powell), 32;44. MM — Powell (Bazzano), 35:32.

Second Half

MM — Molly Flynn (Lauren Kinne), 42:06.

Saves — P: Anna Ramos-Morales, 10. MM: Helen Pajeski, 2.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter or 413-496-6240.


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