WMass D-III soccer: Greylock boys fall in semifinal to old foe Belchertown
CHICOPEE — The Western Massachusetts Division III boys soccer semifinal at Szot Park Wednesday night had a championship bout feel to it.
Mount Greylock and Belchertown are two programs with a lot of intertwined history and that played out in a fiery contest that ultimately ended in a 3-2 win for the top-seeded Orioles.
Over the span of five minutes early in the second half, top-seeded Belchertown turned a 1-1 dead heat into a hefty 3-1 advantage that had No. 4 Greylock scrambling over the final 20 minutes to get back into the game.
"It's a completely different episode and chapter," said Greylock coach Blair Dils. "It's another hard-fought battle between teams that regularly find themselves in the Western Mass. semis and finals."
The Mounties actually had the first good look to forge ahead out of the break, with Sam Dils drawing a penalty and free kick outside the goalie box on the right side a minute in. Belchertown goalkeeper Sean McCarthy made one of his eight saves on a Brady Foehl try off the indirect and sent a punt flying the opposite direction.
In the 44th minute, Sam Rogalewski connected on a bender from the left side that wound by David Falk in net for the 2-1 Orioles lead. Belchertown earned a corner kick two minutes later and off the ensuing possession managed to tack on an insurance goal when Ben Laclair drew Falk out on him and lifted a shot over the top and in on an assist from Rogalewski.
"They've got a great team, so we give them credit. [Those two goals] were big for us, because we knew very well that these guys were a tough team and they'd be there at the very end," said Belchertown coach Tony Almeida. "They play right through the last second. You beat Mt. Greylock, they're always one of the best teams in D-III, as good as any team in D-I, it's always good."
Faced with a two-goal climb against the No. 1 team in Division III and only 33 minutes to play with, Greylock refocused and got back to work.
Finn Welch had a good run that resulted in a goal kick, and a series of free kicks gifted Will Reynolds a strong opportunity that McCarthy gobbled up. The Mounties pushed further up field and defenders Colton Adams, Ric Donati and Reynolds got involved in the offensive pressure. An Adams steal led to another free kick and forced a Belchertown timeout with 13:34 on the clock.
Leading scorer Sam Dils was shadowed everywhere he went at Szot by standout defender Korey Houle and the Orioles often had extra help a shade away. The senior striker found open space hard to come by all night long, but kept at it picking himself up off the ground figuratively and literally time and time again.
The pressure neared a breaking point with Dils narrowly missing a penalty kick opportunity when he was tackled from behind inches outside the box in the 71st minute. The hard work paid off 90 seconds later, though. Emi Soza-Foias, who scored Greylock's equalizer in the first half, put a shot in on McCarthy, but before the 'keeper could get his hands fully on it, Foehl sailed through with a header into the back of the net.
Coach Dils called a timeout on the score, giving his squad 7:34 to find another goal.
"With another extra striker to try and take some of the pressure off Sam, we thought we might be able to slip a ball through," said Coach Dils. "It's hard to go to it early on this team because they have such speed. With 20 minutes left you've got to go with it and hope to bag two. We got one, but couldn't get the third."
It wasn't meant to be, as Foehl's turnaround ball with 3:45 left was snared by McCarthy and a late run by he and Reynolds hit the end line before any damage could be inflicted.
Belchertown scored first in the fourth minute, with Evan Fournier sneaking behind the defense for a blast. Soza-Foias answered not long after, streaking in to one-time a feed from Dils, who had posted up and put his defender in the mixer to clear space for a centering pass.
Greylock had three corner kicks in the first half, but wasn't able to capitalize. At the other end, Falk made two big-time decisions and backed them up with athletic plays to prevent a pair of easy chances. Reynolds was immense on the back line as well, physically dominating Orioles attackers to send things into halftime locked at one.
The Berkshire North champion Mounties will graduate nine players this spring, including six starters, making the next inevitable meeting with Belchertown yet another new chapter.
"It's a great group of kids, they worked hard and made it fun every day of training and they left it all out on the field," said Coach Dils. "The desire was certainly there, we were just one or two plays away. It's tough to swallow that it is over."
Mount Greylock 1 1 — 2
Belchertown 1 2 — 3
B — Evan Fournier (unassisted), 3:51. MG — Emi Soza-Foias (Sam Dils), 7:01.
B — Sam Rogalewski (Connor LaFlamme), 42:04. B — Ben Laclair (Rogalewski), 46:58. MG — Brady Foehl (Soza-Foias), 72:26.
Saves — MG: David Falk, 6. B: Sean McCarthy, 8.
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.