Wahconah girls came up short in quest for a Western Mass. title last year, look to improve

DALTON — Ten months is a long time. That is how long it has been since the Wahconah girls lost in the Western Massachusetts Division III championship game.

"I wanted to make it to the Western Mass. finals so bad. We worked so hard all season," Wahconah senior defender Bri Kasala said. "I couldn't be more excited, and I was very let down when we lost."

Wahconah had won five straight games heading into the final against second-seeded Granby. The Rams beat the Warriors 5-1, going back-to-back and spoiling the Warriors' attempt to win a Western Mass. title for the first time since 2014.

But as the Warriors gathered for their first day of practice on Thursday, the goal could not be clearer.

"This year, I really want to try to get us back up on our feet," Kasala said. "We have a lot of new girls who are very talented."

Wahconah is running under second-year coach Meg Smith, who took the Warriors to a 13-6-2 record and that fourth seed in the Division III tournament. Last year, it was all about the new coaches getting to know the players and vice versa. This year, only the newcomers have to learn what Smith and her staff expect from them.

"I think a little bit," said Smith, when asked if this year feels different. "I think that a group of returning players know what we expect in the new system, and we don't have to start completely fresh with the system with everybody."

"It did feel different this year," senior midfielder Hannah Ronayne said. "We've got one year under our belt. We know them more. They know us."

The Warriors graduated six seniors from last year's team, including All-Berkshire first-team selections Emmy Cote, Amelia Dougherty and Ashley Zink, along with All-North Second Teamer McKenna McIlquham. Between Cote and Dougherty, the Warriors packed 33 goals up with their respective diplomas.

Senior Arden McKnight returns with 12 goals from last year, and there are a dozen freshmen ready to begin their climb up the roster ladder.

Ronayne said that the returning veterans want to remember, but don't want to dwell on it.

"We're going to take what we learned last year and keep building," she said. "We've got a lot of new girls. We lost some good ones. We've gained some good ones.

"We're going to keep last year with us and hope we get back there."

Getting back to that loss to Granby, the team Wahconah beat to win the 2014 Western Mass. title, Kasala said that it took a while to get over.

"I'm not going to lie, I was a little upset for a couple of days," she said after the team's first practice. "Then hockey season came in, and that kind of took away from it a little bit and I kind of forgot about it.

"Now that we're back in soccer season, I'm ready to get back there and hopefully win this time."

Reach sportswriter Howard Herman at 413-496-6253, or @howardherman


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