Lenox girls soccer team blanks Pathfinder, 6-0, to advance to Western Mass. Division IV semifinals
LENOX — Some programs enjoy having an opening-round bye or two in the postseason. Others prefer to get an early-round home game against a lower seed that can serve as a tune-up for the battles to come.
Lenox girls soccer put itself into both camps this fall. The No. 3 Millionaires earned a first-round bye in the Western Massachusetts Division IV tournament, but still got to stretch their legs in a home quarterfinal that saw them bully No. 6 Pathfinder, 6-0.
Lenox advances to the Western Mass. semifinals, where they will contend with No. 2 Gateway, who knocked off seventh-seed Hopkins 2-0 Tuesday night. That game will be at Holyoke High School on Thursday at 5 p.m.
The Millionaires wasted no time in asserting their dominance with an attack mindset that yielded four first-half goals and a four-point night out of junior captain Nicole Gamberoni. The team's top forward carried possession herself 30 yards diagonally across the field into Pathfinder territory off Lenox's first touch. She dished off to Julie Pehlert, who gave it right back to Gamberoni for a long sinking drive that hit nylon just 36 seconds into the game.
"We want to get up by a lot fast and early. For tournament games the mindset is to leave everything out on the field. Losing at this point would be devastating," said Gamberoni. "As long as we work hard throughout the entire game, I can't ask for anything more."
Gamberoni scored twice and added two assists. She mirrored her first half run with a hard drive at the left post a minute after intermission, putting the Millioniares up 5-0 in the 42nd minute.
"She got those two early in each half. Getting that early goal does take a lot of the pressure off and lets you play calm soccer and get comfortable in the game," said Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuk. "Having her have that intensity right from the get-go and to get us off on the right foot is really important. She set the tone."
The Millionaires were all about tone-setting in this one, which sends them to their third straight semifinal. Lenox was eliminated each of the last two postseasons — semifinals last year, title game in 2015 — by Monson, which has reclassified to Division III in 2017.
Fellow junior Abby Schilling reeled off a pair of goals in the middle of the half, scoring in both the 10th and 11th minute. Her first forced a Pathfinder timeout down 2-0, but the break did little to slow a surging Lenox offense. Senior captain Kristin Parkinson fed Schilling less than a minute later for a goal attacking the left side. Pehlert and Aidan Burns later shared a Gamberoni pass that snuck them behind most of the Pathfinder defense. The final fullback bit on Burns and Pehlert took her shot for a 4-0 lead.
"That was more of switching the field than playing the through balls," said Gamberoni of her second assist. "We work well playing the diagonal balls outside and cutting back in. We just have to get our heads up and play to feet. We had a lot of opportunities tonight."
Gamberoni and breakout eighth-grader Mary Elliot scored second half goals, both on dimes from Parkinson to put the game away. Eighth-grade goalkeeper Sophie Patella, along with classmate Julianne Harwood (in net for the final 15:58) did their job in net and defender Katherine Nichols made a late stab to preserve the shutout with 11 minutes left.
The road will get considerably tougher for Lenox now. Gateway played legitimate competition to an 11-win season and has just as much tournament experience as Zinchuk's mixed crew.
"At halftime we talked about focusing and playing our game at our pace, regardless of the opponent," said Zinchuk. "We had to have some mental strength to stay focused and playing our game because we know that we're going to continue to see tougher and tougher competition. Another game in two days, not a lot of time to turn around and come back out."
The Millionaires will continue to rely on a unique concoction of rookies and long-time veterans that has served them well all season.
"It's a cool mixture of girls. I was an eighth-grader on the team, so I think it's cool that we have so many eighth-graders to bring in, they're like our younger sisters," said Gamberoni, who was a freshman on Lenox's Western Mass. finalist finish in 2015. "We're very close during soccer season."
Lenox 4 2 — 6
Pathfinder 0 0 — 0
L — Nicole Gamberoni (Julie Pehlert), 0:36. L — Abby Schilling (Gamberoni), 10:43. L — Abby Schilling (Kristin Parkinson), 11:20. L — Pehlert (Gamberoni), 32:36.
L — Gamberoni (Parkinson), 41:08. L — Mary Elliot (Parkinson), 48:18.
Saves — L: Sophie Patella, 3 and Julianne Harwood, 1. P: Mackayla Weldon, 7.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter or at 413-496-6240.
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