Western Mass. girls soccer: Lenox wins weather-shortened game against Smith Academy
LENOX — Kyle Zinchuk has been on the Lenox sidelines for over a half-decade now. In all his time as the girls soccer coach, he had never seen something like what happened on Friday afternoon.
Playing in below-freezing temperatures in a Western Massachusetts Division IV quarterfinal game against No. 6 Smith Academy, the No. 3 Millionaires broke out to a 2-0 lead at halftime, and just when the players began warming up for the second half, the Millionaires were declared winners.
During halftime, the referees did an inspection of the pitch. In front of one goal — the one by the woods — there was frozen turf. The officials deemed the field unplayable, and because a full half had been played, the game was made official.
"I'm proud of the girls for getting out and getting that early lead, and doing what they needed to do, but my heart breaks for Smith, honestly," Zinchuk said.
"We've been in that situation, you give a couple goals up and you say 'Alright, we are going to come back in the second half, change some things,' and for them to not have that opportunity, I feel for them. I really do."
Erin Czelusniak put Lenox ahead in the 15th minute when she finished off a pass from Mary Elliot, then in the 39th the senior got on the end of a loose ball after Aliza Munch had forced a Falcons turnover inside their own 18-yard box. With enough time to line up a shot, Czelusniak found the bottom corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
"I was telling them at halftime, a 2-0 lead is one of the worst leads in soccer," Zinchuk said. "I was getting that speech all ready when they came over and called it.
"With the temperature, I think you saw it, both teams were a little bit slow, reaction-wise too, you slow down mentally. But for them to move the ball around the way we did in these temperatures, and find those couple of goals is good for us, yeah."
Lenox carried play in the first half, and could have scored even more. Molly Knight had a nice shot attempt saved by Claire Bennett, while Munch sent a curling effort just around the post.
The second half could have featured even more goals, or perhaps a Falcons comeback. Instead, both teams got to head to the lockers early to try and thaw out their frozen limbs.
"Yeah. I'm an official, I've actually [called a game off before]. Not in a playoff game, that's the unfortunate part, but sometimes fields are unplayable," Falcons coach Keith Lepine said. "Usually it's rain, today it was frozen. That's just the way it goes."
Friday's game also featured the return of Sophie Patella in goal for Lenox. The sophomore came up with a big stop early on Smith Academy's Erin Gilrein, and late in the half she watched central defenders Katherine Nichols and Hannah Lagonia collapse on Smith Academy's Emma Moynihan with Moynihan almost through on goal.
Patella has been out since the fifth game of the regular season. Zinchuk said having her presence in goal helps the team feel more settled.
"We've really had to go almost a whole season without her," Zinchuk said. "She didn't really have to do a whole lot for us tonight, but I know the team feels really great and confident when they know they have her behind them in net. Hopefully that gives us some good confidence going forward, too."
With the weather-shortened win, the Millionaires advance to the D-IV semifinals for the fifth straight year. Lenox will play No.2 Gateway after the Gators defeated No. 7 McCann Tech, 5-0, in another quarterfinal Friday night.
Smith 0 — 0
Lenox 2 — 2
L — Erin Czelusniak (Mary Elliot), 15:00. L — Czelusniak (Aliza Munch), 39:00.
Saves — SA: Claire Bennett 4. L: Sophie Patella 2.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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