Lenox boys soccer gets by Mount Everett to earn chance at repeat in Western Mass. D-IV final
DALTON — Coming into the season, Lenox boys soccer coach Matt Cote knew that the 2018 Millionaires were a far different team than the 2017 squad that won a Western Massachusetts Division IV title.
Despite all of that, the Millionaires will get a shot to defend their sectional crown.
Playing at Wahconah on Thursday in the D-IV semifinals, the Millionaires went ahead on a Keveen Delgado goal in the first half, and added two more in the second to beat No. 4 Mount Everett 3-0.
The No. 1 Millionaires now advance to play Westfield Tech in the D-IV finals at Westfield State University. The Tigers beat Pioneer Valley on penalty kicks on Thursday. A date and time for the game was unavailable at press deadline.
"We got here the hard way," Cote said after the semifinal win. "This year, I've been preaching it all season: we don't deserve a damn thing. We deserve what we work for, we deserve what we scrap for, we deserve only what we scrape for.
"And we've been scraping and scrapping and scratching our way through the season."
Delgado's opener was a thing of absolute beauty. Picking the ball up at midfield, Delgado sliced through the heart of the Eagles defense, taking on any and all comers to try and create space. Once Delgado freed himself up enough, he hit a shot with some dipping English on it, sending it back across the face of goal and past the outstretched arms of Patrick Silk with 22 minutes, 30 seconds gone.
"We preached that before the game, that we had to score first," Cote said. "That was huge for us, and Keveen is the right guy to do it. He did something similar for us yesterday [against Smith Academy], where he has a little bit of time and a little bit of space and he takes advantage of it and he cuts through the defense so expertly, and he's just a great finisher."
Everett pushed for an equalizer after the score, and Anthony Lupiani nearly found himself one-on-one with Jacob Munch before Cooper Shepardson recovered to boot the ball clear for a corner. On the ensuing corner, the ball landed on the deck in the 18-yard box and eventually found its way to Zach Lupiani, but Lupiani couldn't get good contact on his shot, and sent the effort harmlessly for Munch to corral.
Lenox came close to an insurance goal early in the second half through Cam Abdalla, but Abdalla's teasing cross into the center of the box was grabbed by Silk before a Millionaire could get a boot on it.
Lenox kept the pressure up, and got the insurance tally with just under 18 to go.
The second goal was an individual effort like the first, this time through Andre Collins. Collins picked up a pass, held off a pair of Mount Everett defenders, then got around a third before poking home from close range.
With the Eagles reeling, the Millionaires went for the jugular a minute later when Herkus Rudzinskas played a deft ball onto the feet of Zach Suffish. Suffish took possession, sized up a shot and slotted home to make it 3-0 with 17 minutes to play.
"At halftime, I pointed to the scoreboard and said this game will not end 1-0," Cote said, "because if it does, you're going to play a stressful second half. I said it ends 3-0. My crystal ball worked pretty well today.
"The second goal was great, but tell you what, that third goal, now you can breath."
Mount Everett was making just its second sectional semifinal appearance in program history, with the last coming in 2011. Everett coach Josh King said that was a feat his team should be proud of, but he knows it's one that the returning Eagles will want to one-up if they can.
"Walking away kind of hoping the guys are hungry to get back there," King said. "I don't think they are satisfied just making the semis. I think they want to be in a position to compete for a championship at the end."
Munch made just two saves in the win, thanks in large part to the play of Shepardson and Tristan Collins ahead of him. Cote praised his central defenders for stepping in to replace two graduated players from 2017, and also said that Rudzinskas, playing as a wing back, was his man of the match for his tireless work running up and down the wings.
When asked after the game if this year's finals appearance felt any better or different than last year's, Cote said the answer was somewhere in between.
"In some ways, yeah, just because I know how hard they've had to work and how hard I've had to work and how hard my assistants have had to work," Cote said. "So is it more rewarding? It's hard to say that. It's very rewarding to get here and to win. It is a little bit like when you reach the top of a long hike. You get to the top of the mountain and you get to sit there and say 'I made it.' "
The Millionaires, though, are on a false summit. The real peak lies ahead on Saturday, and the Millionaires are an 80-minute grind from reaching the pinnacle for a second straight season.
Everett 0 0 — 0
Lenox 1 2 — 3
L — Keveen Delgado (unassisted), 18:30.
L — Andre Collins (UA), 62:02. L — Zach Suffish (Herkus Rudzinskas), 63:00.
Saves — ME: Patrick Silk 8. L: Jacob Munch 2.
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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