Monument Mountain girls soccer team falls to South Hadley in Western Mass. D-III semifinals
CHICOPEE — A year ago, South Hadley needed penalty kicks to get by Monument Mountain in the Western Massachusetts Division III final.
In 2018, the Tigers and Spartans again met in tournament play, and a South Hadley PK again set the Tigers up for victory.
South Hadley eliminated Monument Mountain 3-0 in the Western Mass. semifinals at Chicopee Comprehensive High School on Wednesday.
The top-seeded Tigers were awarded two PK opportunities in the first half, with Lindsay Marjanski capitalizing on the second try in the 31st minute to go ahead 1-0. The No. 4 Spartans couldn't find the equalizer.
"South Hadley is obviously well-coach and they're a great team. They got the best of us, but we put out the best we had. Put a lot of heart into it," said Monument coach Jess Platt, who waded through a sea of hugs from current and former players, parents and fans. "I love them. Love the seniors, a lot of them have been with me for four years, and they're just more than athletes. They're great people. I feel fortunate to have had them for such a long time."
Monument had its share of chances to break the scoreless deadlock after dodging a bullet when a South Hadley PK sailed high just two minutes into the game. South Hadley keeper Bridget Sears gobbled up an Aubrey Blanchard header around 10 minutes in, and canceled out a Molly Flynn blast midway through the half. Just before play switched fields and South Hadley earned its second PK, Maya Cooney had a try on a Meri Powell feed that cleared the crossbar.
The unbeaten Tigers hadn't allowed a goal in any of their seven preceding games, and four minutes into the second half, their offense earned an insurance tally. Marjanski and Alexa Blaney had a give-and-go down the left sideline, before crossing a pass to Teagan Gawron on the opposite edge of the box. Gawron sent a pass back into to a crashing Blaney, who finished it off for the 2-0 lead.
"We talked about it at halftime," said Tigers coach Rich Marjanski. "I said, 'listen, there's no tomorrow. That second goal is probably going to decide who wins this game. If you guys get that second goal it puts a lot of pressure on them to move up,' and they responded."
The Spartans frantically tried to get back into the game with a goal, but South Hadley kept stealing chances. The Tigers earned eight corner kicks, while not allowing the Spartans a single one. While goalie Helen Pajeski and her defense were equal to stopping all seven — multiple times with Pajeski punching a save up high, leading to another corner — the constant pressure didn't allow Monument to mount any consistent offense of its own. The Tigers pressured every touch, all over the field.
"Momentum shifted a little there with the second goal," said Platt. "But I'm still proud of the way they played till the last second. It was a great season for us."
In the 60th minute, Ava Gamberoni subbed in and flew up the right sideline. She connected with Flynn, who sent a cross that got in behind Sears, but it toed the line and rolled through with no answer.
Later, Meg Kinne had a clear look from a distance, but sailed a shot high. Powell then won possession deep in the right corner with about eight minutes left. She took it inside the box and swept a pass to Flynn. She needed to go high to clear Sears, but the shot arched over the top of the net.
With 4:09 remaining, South Hadley's Olivia Blaney punched a shot from about 25 yards out that soared into the back of the net to ice the game.
The Tigers will look to defend their Western Mass. title this weekend against either No. 2 Wahconah or No. 3 Monson, who play tonight at 5 p.m. at Holyoke High School.
Monument 0 0 — 0
S. Hadley 1 2 — 3
SH — Lindsay Marjanski (penalty kick), 30:49.
SH — Alexa Blaney (Teagan Gawron), 44:33. SH — Olivia Blaney (unassisted), 75:51.
Saves — MM: Haley Pajeski 7; SH: Bridget Sears 4.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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