That qualifying feeling: Pittsfield girls soccer team beats Wahconah to earn spot in Western Mass. Division I tournament
DALTON — The Pittsfield girls soccer team knew what was at stake on Tuesday afternoon at Wahconah Regional High School.
A win, and the Generals were in the Western Mass. Division I tournament. A loss, and the Generals would have to pack their bags and head home for the season.
Thankfully for coach Andy Waluszko, he doesn't have to collect his team's uniforms yet.
The Generals battled back from a goal down to beat the Warriors 3-1 on Wahconah's Senior Day, and in the process, PHS locked up the No. 2 spot in the Berkshire North rankings, and with it a spot in the postseason.
"We are very excited," Waluszko said. "It's a young team, we just came together and started gelling at the end of the season. We had a real tough schedule. We worked really hard and got some good results. The younger kids started stepping up. It's a great way to finish."
The win snuck PHS into the Division I field the hard way. Pittsfield ended the regular season with a sub-.500 record, at 6-9-3, but the 3-2-3 mark in the North was good enough for the second-place finish, and the automatic berth in the postseason that comes with it.
The path certainly wasn't easy for PHS. After a 4-0 loss to Hoosac Valley on Oct. 20, the Generals were left with a three-game run through the Berkshire North — Mount Greylock, Monument Mountain, then Wahconah. PHS recorded a pair of 2-0 wins over the first two foes, before rallying for the dramatic win on the final day of the regular season.
"I think we definitely had it in us, but we didn't realize it until after that loss [to Hoosac], because we knew we had to win every game after that to make tournament," senior Molly Tierney, who scored the third goal on Tuesday, said. "We just really had to push and get the team going, and everyone did and they tried their hardest and that's why we were able to make it."
But before the Generals could celebrate after the win, the team had to knuckle down and grind out the result.
Wahconah's Arden McKnight got the Senior Day festivities off on the right foot, taking a centering pass from Chloe Accardi in the center of the 18-yard box and depositing the ball low and to the right just over 10 minutes in.
The goal was the culmination of a dominant opening spell for the Warriors (7-7-4, 2-3-3). The strike, though, jolted the Generals back to life. PHS started slowly asserting itself on the game, but with 19 minutes, 15 seconds to go until halftime, Waluszko called a timeout to talk with his troops. Waluszko noticed that his group of five seniors were teetering somewhere between hopelessness and a blind faith in their abilities.
"Very proud of the senior group," Waluszko said. "When I called timeout, they were upset, and they didn't want the season to end. They are bringing in the younger teammates, too, they've really brought them in and made it cohesive. They've worked hard. It's a good job. I didn't want their season to end here, we wanted to continue, and they wanted to continue."
On a free kick after the timeout, Sadie Supranowicz placed a beautiful ball onto the turf in the Wahconah box and Sadie Tierney got a boot on the ball, but Sage Howes was able to make the stop. Moments later, Kendra Buda smacked a shot off the crossbar.
The pressure finally paid off with just under two to go in the half. Julia Eline-Wright — a constant figure in the thick of action throughout — got the ball on the left wing, proceeded to work her way toward the middle of the field, then unleashed a corking shot from about 25 yards out that went over the head of Howes and dipped back into the top of the goal.
"Because the goal was so beautiful — it was a perfect goal right in the top corner — it definitely got us all pumped up and changed how everyone else was playing," Supranowicz said. "I think it made us play harder, because it woke us up."
In the second half, Taea Bramer picked the perfect time to score her first varsity goal. Two minutes after the restart, Lizzie Swanson played a pass into the center of the box and Bramer rifled off a shot that deflected off a Wahconah player and into the net.
"She's been playing a lot better the last few weeks at practices. She's been working really hard," Waluszko said of Bramer. "When she gets the shot off, it's a beautiful shot."
The second goal kickstarted the action in the second half. Wahconah, itself trying to secure a better postseason seed, started pushing. McKnight nearly set up Johanna Esko for the equalizer shortly after Bramer's goal, but Esko's shot went just wide of the goal. McKnight then tried setting up Isabelle Viner, but Viner couldn't get a clean connection on her shot attempt.
McKnight then nearly scored a golazo herself, hitting a shot with power and precision to test Hayley Tobin. Tobin had trouble with the shot at first, punching it up into the air, but the senior eventually corralled the ball and got it clear.
With seven minutes to go, Noelle Furlong got off another good shot on Tobin's goal, but again, the shot was just over the crossbar instead of on target.
Tierney killed the game off for good with 10 seconds to go. On a corner kick, the ball came out to Makailey Cookis, and Cookis sent a pass into Tierney in the box, which the senior finished for the 3-1 advantage.
Wahconah coach Meg Smith was left disappointed with the final result, but pointed out the silver lining for her team.
"It's a little easier to swallow because it's not the end," she said, "but we have some work to do tomorrow to make sure that we can keep going forward for the next couple of games."
For Supranowicz and company, the win reaffirmed what they already knew about themselves.
"It's all about effort, with us, because we have the talent," she said. "It's been about effort with us since the beginning of the season. When we work for it, we can get whatever, we can get it."
Both teams will learn their postseason fates Wednesday. The soccer seeding meeting is scheduled for noon at Southwick. The Generals will be in the D-I field, while the Warriors are in the D-III field.
Pittsfield 1 2 — 3
Wahconah 1 0 — 1
W — Arden McKnight (Chloe Accardi), 10:25. P — Julia Eline-Wright (unassisted), 38:06.
P — Taea Bramer (Lizzie Swanson), 42:00. P — Molly Tierney (Makailey Cookis), 79:50.
Saves — P: Hayley Tobin 5. W: Sage Howes 5.
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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