Monument Mountain girls soccer team scores on two corner kicks to top Wahconah, advance to Western Mass. D-III semifinals
GREAT BARRINGTON — It was just about 12 months ago when Wahconah knocked top-seeded Monument Mountain out in the Western Massachusetts Division III girls soccer semifinals.
Fast forward, and while the Spartans were still the higher seed, they returned the favor.
Aubrey Blanchard's goal off a corner kick midway through the second half broke a tie and gave the third-seeded Spartans a 2-1 win over No. 6 Wahconah Tuesday night.
"Of course," Monument junior defender Gabi DeFelice said. "We were playing for something tonight. Playing Wahconah, they're a great team, obviously we have a great history with them. It really feels good to get this one tonight."
Wahconah's Arden McKnight tied the game three minutes into the second half, when she beat Monument goalkeeper Helen Pajeski to a loose ball and put it in the net. Veronica Gamberoni got the assist.
When the final whistle blew, the Spartans celebrated as snow fell all around them.
"I'm sure they did" think about last year, Monument coach Jess Platt said. "Absolutely."
With the win, the Spartans (12-3-5) advance to their third consecutive Division III semifinal. Monument will take on second-seeded Monson (13-2-4) at Holyoke High School's Roberts Stadium, Thursday at 7 p.m. The Mustangs knocked off 10th-seeded Frontier 4-0 in a Tuesday quarterfinal.
The Monument-Monson game will be part of a Berkshire County doubleheader in Holyoke. Lenox will play Gateway in a 5 p.m. Division IV semifinal.
It was a disappointing finish for the Warriors (8-8-4), who reached the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over No. 11 Palmer.
"I'm proud of them," Wahconah coach Meg Smith said. "I think they fought the whole game. They didn't back down. I think they tried to push forward."
Monument took the lead midway through the half when Blanchard volleyed a DeFelice corner past Wahconah keeper Sage Howes.
In fact, both of Monument goals came off of corner-kick plays.
"We've been putting in a lot of time doing that, and it's been a focus of ours," said DeFelice. "We've been successful, so we want to work for those corners, and it was lucky to go in tonight."
Monument's first-half goal also came off a corner kick. Six minutes into the game, the Wahconah defense could not clear a DeFelice corner kick out of the box. Monument's Meri Powell found the ball and fired it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Monument's second goal came after one of five second-half corner kicks for the Spartans. On the play, DeFelice booted the ball from the right corner into the middle of the box. Blanchard was in the middle of scrum, and as the ball fell to her feet, she one-timed it into the back of the net.
Monument turned on the pressure after that, but Howes came up big time and again to keep the Warriors in the game. With about 10 minute left, Howes made a big stop on a shot by Monument's Olivia Jaffe. Howes had earlier made a sliding kick stop on a shot by Molly Flynn that kept Monument's lead at one goal. Howes ended up with six saves.
"She was unbelievable. She played her heart out," said Smith, "and protected the net really well."
Platt, herself a goalkeeper at Monument and then at Ithaca College, said Howes' performance was quality.
"Sage had some absolutely great saves that kept Wahconah in the game," said the Monument coach. "Respect. Goalies have respect for goalies, that's for sure."
So with the win, the Spartans erase bad memories of 2016, and are now one win away from playing for a Division III crown.
"Obviously it was disappointing to have our season end" last year, DeFelice said. "At the time, we were playing great soccer.
"We came back even stronger this year, and that's what matters."
Wahconah 0 1 — 1
Monument 1 1 — 2
MM — Meri Powell (unassisted), 6:08.
W — Arden McKnight (Victoria Gamberoni), 42:37. MM — Aubrey Blanchard (Gabi DeFelice), 53:58.
Saves — W: Sage Howes 6. MM: Helen Pajeski 4.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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