Hoosac Valley girls soccer team shuts out Mount Greylock to book postseason spot
CHESHIRE — After a blowout win over Pittsfield on Oct. 20, the Hoosac Valley girls soccer team needed just one point in their final four games to qualify for postseason play.
Something unidentifiable threw a wrench into the Hurricanes' gears over the final 10 days of the regular season, though, and three losses by a combined score of 10-3 followed. That put an immense amount of pressure on a Halloween afternoon game against already tournament-bound Mount Greylock, a team that had bested Hoosac 3-1 in Williamstown earlier this fall.
"The thing we kept saying to ourselves was 'why?'" said Hoosac Valley coach Kathy Budaj. "The Monument Mountain loss was unfortunate, and then the Wahconah one again made us wonder what was going on, but you think that hopefully it is building composure and resilience. We talked about it at practices and you could tell tonight they wanted it."
The resiliency showed up in a big way Tuesday, as the Hurricanes attacked early and often while sealing up a leaky defense to beat the Mounties 2-0 and punch their ticket to the Western Massachusetts Division III tournament on the last possible day.
Both Hoosac Valley (6-5-5, 2-3-3 Berkshire North) and Mount Greylock (9-6-2, 2-5-1) will hear their names announced at the soccer seeding meeting later today.
"It's more than satisfying. We knew we had it all season, we just needed to put it all out there," said senior captain Skylar Case. "Today, I could feel the energy warming up and pregame in the locker room. To come out with that win, a shutout against Greylock, it was mind-blowing for us."
With nine wins, the Mounties had already clinched their spot, but injuries have bitten Tom Ostheimer's crew and outside of a quality draw against Wahconah, they'll enter the tournament without a victory since Oct. 17.
"We're a little banged up, but as I told the girls, no excuses. We can only worry about our play and what we can control," said Ostheimer.
Hoosac played with the sense of urgency it needed to early on, putting in a goal in the seventh minute and dominating the lion's share of possession in the first half.
With 33:46 left in the opening period, Ellie Field tapped a pass up to Alie Mendel, who struck a long ball from outside the left corner of the box that hooked around the goalie and into the far corner of the net. The score forced an early Greylock timeout as the Hurricanes had already seen a couple good offensive opportunities. The break did little to slow them down, though. Mendel took another one-on-one drive and shot it wide, before goalkeeper Isabella Nicastro turned away a Claudia Bresett try.
"We had a lot of offensive push. We've been struggling to put the ball in the net, and even today, the 2-0 should've been higher," said Budaj. "That's been our season. I don't know how many shots we fired on Monument or Wahconah."
Greylock needed two more big defensive plays to keep the deficit at one through the middle of the half. Ella Dudley and Brooke Masse made a pair of individual stands to eliminate tries created by a hard-driving Shaleigh Levesque.
Levesque did break through in the 38th minute, getting a free release on a pass from Chloe Martel around midfield and leading two defenders on a race at Nicastro. The heady attacker drew Greylock's keeper out of position and skirted a grounder inside the far post for a 2-0 lead just before the half.
"They completely got behind our defense, and were just faster," said Ostheimer. "We moved Lauren [Howard] back in the second half and that helped, but then it hurt our offense."
Greylock had a few more chances in the second half to get back into the game, but the Hoosac defense had its eyes set on a tournament berth. Caroline Flynn got off a good look right out of the gate, but sophomore Grace Kronick made the save in net. She later turned away a try by Dudley and one by Charlotte Rauscher to secure the shutout. The Mounties were hamstrung a bit when elite attacker Madison Ross went to the sideline with an injury, further limiting their offensive potency.
"To start for [Kronick] it was telling her not to be nervous," said Case of the young keeper. "She's been playing against a lot of upperclassmen, but she's been great at practice and we know she has our back."
While Case didn't necessarily see a different team on the field Tuesday, she believes what she witnessed was a culmination of a lot of hard work and determination. The win put Hoosac Valley in the tournament field, but what they accomplished over the span of an entire season will make them dangerous in bracket play.
"We don't give up, regardless of what is going on, we just keep pushing and have a positive attitude," said Case. "We're a really tough team physically and mentally and I think that will really help us in the tournament."
Mount Greylock 0 0 — 0
Hoosac Valley 2 0 — 2
HV — Alie Mendel (Ellie Field), 6:14. HV — Shaleigh Levesque (Chloe Martel), 37:18.
Saves — MG: Isabella Nicastro, 7. HV: Grace Kronick, 3.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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