Pittsfield, Lenox boys soccer teams battle to 1-1 draw
Mike Abdalla got Lenox (8-3-3, 2-3-1 Berkshire North) off on the right foot with a goal just over 25 minutes into the contest, but Pittsfield's Seyvon Kouao leveled the score up just eight minutes before the break.
"Two tough teams. I feel like we played them twice [3-2 win on Sept. 19], and they were very honest games," Pittsfield coach Andrew Antil said. "They were close, and I think that they could go one way or the other depending on the day."
The game played out like one would expect between two rivals. There were tough 50-50 challenges, posts hit and shots fluffed. It was, as Lenox coach Matt Cote put it, "exactly what we needed.
"The result is good. More importantly than the score, the result is good, because we had a weird game against Everett the other day. We kind of had a bumbling kind of a game where nothing was going our way. We were all kind of down on ourselves, and we have to roll into tournament now. We sort of said, this is going to be the beginning of our roll into tournament."
Both teams are either completely in, or right on the doorstep of the Western Massachusetts tournament. Lenox is officially in the Division IV field, while Pittsfield (7-5-3, 3-2-2) needs just one more point to make Division I with three games remaining.
In the opening exchanges on Friday, Lenox seemed to be on the right foot, although Pittsfield remained dangerous on the counter. The first real chance of the game came with just under 16 minutes to play in the half. On a Lenox free kick, Zi Santos put the ball near Nic Baruch at the far post, but Baruch's shot went off the side netting and out of play.
A little over a minute later, Baruch redeemed himself by springing Abdalla for his goal.
On a Pittsfield throw in the Lenox zone, Abdalla managed to clear the ball up to Baruch, who held the ball and allowed Abdalla to run past him. Baruch put the ball into Abdalla's path, and the senior pulled off a hesitation move to create space against the last Pittsfield defender, and one-on-one with Avi Snowise, Abdalla made no mistake.
Pittsfield, though, came roaring back. With the Lenox sideline fired up and searching for a second goal, Pittsfield found itself in the Lenox zone with Gabe Rich holding the ball. Rich hit a shot, but put too much English on it. If no one was in front of him, the shot would have gone wide. Instead, Seyvon Kouao was in the right place at the right time. Taking control of the ball quickly, Kouao re-directed the shot past Matt Tibbetts.
The second half was a joy for the spectators, even if another goal didn't come. Lenox had chances, Pittsfield had chances, and neither team's defense was willing to give up the perfect chance.
Ian Laurin of Lenox was the first to get a good look. Four minutes in, he sent a rocket off Snowise's near post. Snowise then came up big on a corner kick, punching away a shot from Nick Monteleone, then stopping a shot from Abdalla on the rebound attempt.
Pittsfield got a look early in the frame through Max Whalen, but his shot was tame enough for Tibbetts to corral. Later, Cristian Mendez hit a sweet volley toward the net, but Laurin stepped in front to deflect the shot away.
Both coaches praised the other in the postgame talks.
"I have to give a lot of credit to PHS. I didn't realize they were going to be so good this year," Cote said. "They are really good. They knocked off Minnechaug. They are really good, they are fast, [Antil] is doing a good job with them."
Antil, meanwhile, said that: "They are a tough team. They are big, they are strong, they are fast, they have been playing together since they were 5 years old. It's good to know we can beat a veteran team with a fairly new team. It gives us a lot of hope going into the tournament, and for next year."
The word "tournament" was mentioned frequently by both coaches. With just a handful of games left for both teams — Pittsfield has three, Lenox has four — the fight for seeding is on.
"It would have been better if we could say we got a 'W' [today]," Cote said, "but, we long ago kind of said, 'Alright, the Berkshire North isn't going to happen, we don't really care about that. What we care about is the D-IV tournament.' That being said, we aren't all about the end, we are about getting there, step-by-step, game-by-game. So, this is a great stepping stone."
"We've talked ourselves into the fact that we are contenders," Antil said of his team. "We know that we belong in the tournament with the D-I teams. We'll see what happens next week against Longmeadow. I think if we step up, we can at least get a point out of that, if not a win. People will be like, 'Oh, he's crazy,' but I see it."
Lenox 1 0 — 1
Pittsfield 1 0 — 1
L — Mike Abdalla (Nic Baruch), 25:39. P — Seyvon Kouao (Gabe Rich), 31:57.
Saves — L: Matt Tibbetts 3. P: Avi Snowise 5.
Reach sports editor Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254 or @GSmith_Eagle.
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