Wahconah girls soccer beats Hoosac Valley for third time this season, books spot in Western Mass. D-III semifinals
PITTSFIELD — In 240 minutes of soccer this fall, Hoosac Valley has not been able to break through goalie Sage Howes and the Wahconah defense.
With the help of a team-wide effort, Howes pitched her third straight 1-0 shutout of the Hurricanes, this one coming in the Western Massachusetts Division III quarterfinals.
No. 2 Wahconah got a first-half goal from Sadie Anderson to hold off the 10th-seeded Hurricanes on what was essentially a neutral field at Berkshire Community College. With rain correctly predicted to fall for all 80 minutes of Monday evening action, Wahconah had to sacrifice home-field advantage for the slick turf of Gene Dellea Field. Whether in Dalton, Cheshire or Pittsfield, though, the result was the same — coach Meg Smith's defense keeping an athletic and fast-paced Hurricanes attack at bay.
"I really love home games, but either way, it's not the field, we're a team. We play together no matter where we go," Howes said. "We're always going to play the same way."
Wahconah advances to the semifinals, and will await the winner of Tuesday's contest between No. 3 Monson and No. 6 Hampshire.
Anderson's tally capped an opening 20 minutes in which the Warriors dominated possession. Allison Washburn and Victoria Gamberoni had tries that sailed high or wide, before Hooasc keeper Kelsey Bulson proved equal to the task on shots by Chloe Accardi and Noelle Furlong.
Then, in the 22nd minute, Maria Gamberoni took a pass wide up the left side and centered to Anderson. The sophomore gathered, juked a defender and put a shot into the top right shelf for a 1-0 lead.
"We knew coming in, the games we play them, it's a always a battle," said Washburn, a senior captain. "We really wanted this, the seniors don't want our season to end. Everything we have goes into every game."
Hoosac Valley coach Kathy Budaj called a timeout immediately to settle things. The Hurricanes had no reason to believe the equalizer wouldn't come, after rolling up four goals on the road at Mahar in the opening round. And the opportunities were there. Hoosac dominated possession for the remainder of the half.
Cairagan Greene had a hard strike from the right side that deflected off of defender Maggie Mazzeo and careened dangerously of the crossbar. Mazzeo redeemed the near misstep by being first to Greene's corner kick and helping to clear it out. Later, Sydni Jamros split a pair of defenders and centered a near perfect ball to a teammate entering the far corner, but the one-timer sailed just high.
Wahconah's senior keeper made the saves she needed to, playing carefully with a wet ball on a pair of long lofts from Alie Mendel and keeping things in front of her on all four of Hoosac's corner kick attempts.
"We know they have a very aggressive offense, so we worked on trying to contain to allow the rest of our defense time to drop back," said defender Abby Wells, who was engaged in a series of one-on-one plays with Jamros. "We've seen her three times and I know how fast she is and she's got great moves, so I just have to hold her to the sideline and hope for the best."
Jamros looked to have gotten the better of the matchup a couple times, including once catching Wells too far up. She took off on what looked to be a breakaway, but Wells tracked her down and got a body on her out wide. On another Hoosac attack, this time by Shaleigh Levesque, Howes raced out about 30 yards to beat the Hurricanes attack to a through ball and send it the other way.
"I give so much credit to our defense, they're so awesome back there, they save us a lot," said Washburn. "Our midfield too, the whole team works well together. It's been a long season and we want to keep it going."
Wahconah had a few chances to grab the insurance goal, including a penalty kick with less than 10 minutes to play, but Jilly Cote's boot soared high.
Hoosac 0 0 — 0
Wahconah 1 0 — 1
W — Sadie Anderson (Maria Gamberoni), 21:43.
Saves — HV: Kelsey Bulson 10; W: Sage Howes 4.
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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