WMass D-IV soccer: Lenox girls win shootout over Gateway, advance to championship game
This story has been updated with the time and location for the Western Mass. final.
HOLYOKE — Sarah Fenton doesn't like to deal with pressure situations very much. On Thursday night, the Lenox girls soccer senior captain was forced into one of the most intense situations of her athletic career.
She dealt with the pressure perfectly, and as a result her Millionaires will contend for a Western Massachusetts Division IV title on Saturday.
In the fifth round of penalty kicks against No. 2 Gateway, the third-seeded Millionaires and the Gators were tied up at 3 makes each. Gateway, going first in the penalty shootout, saw Erin Harris step up and clatter her shot off the crossbar. Fenton was next, with the game on the line.
"Being a senior captain, I've always felt like I'm a leader on this team," Fenton said. "When I realized that it came down to me, I realized that it's not about me anymore — it's about the rest of my team. ... All I could think about was doing that and being there for my team and just finishing it."
And finish it she did. Fenton put a perfectly placed shot into the lower corner of the net and around Becca Herman, setting off a rush of celebrations as the Millionaires advanced on penalty kicks, 4-3. The score after regulation and overtime was scoreless.
"I don't do well with pressure," Fenton said to the gathered media presence after the game. "But for some reason, today I fought through it and said 'I have to do this for my team.'"
The penalty shootout proved to be the highlight of the night in a game that was a defensive chess match. Neither side got a perfect look on goal, and each side had one chance that could have swayed the game in regulation.
Lenox's came in the first half. In the opening exchanges, Shelby Lynch had a shot stuffed by Herman, then Abby Schilling had two rebound chances deflect off a defender.
Gateway's came in the second overtime. After over 90 minutes of scoreless soccer, Jessica Van Heynigen got behind the Lenox defense. One-on-one with eighth-grade goaltender Sophie Patella, Van Heynigen tried to line up a shot, but Patella rushed off her line, closed the gap and forced the shot directly at her for the save.
"Sophie has been our savior this entire season," Fenton said. "There have been times where our defense, as strong as they are, could not get to the ball, but Sophie always does.
"We all fought hard to get there, but I know Sophie would be there because she always is."
The win is the second in three years for Lenox over Gateway in the semifinals. In 2015, the game was also decided on penalty kicks.
"At the end of the second overtime, I looked at my assistant, Kristin Parkinson, a senior captain, was coming off the field, we all looked at each other, we said 'Yup, of course this is what it came to,' " Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuck said. "I'm really happy we came out on top at the end there, but PKs are a really tough way to finish a game. Hats off to Gateway, they played an absolutely terrific game. We both had a few chances, but really, this was a solid defensively played game."
With the win, the Lenox girls made it the second time in three years that both Lenox programs will vie for a Western Mass. title, after the boys team beat Pioneer in overtime on Wednesday night -- on the same field — 1-0. Zinchuck touched on the special nature of that fact when asked.
"It's great, it's phenomenal," he said. "I think it really says a lot about our program, on both the boys' and girls' side. We work really hard to get here, it's not something that comes easy. It takes a lot of work throughout the season, and it took all the way to PKs. It's going to be great, hopefully we'll have our games close to each other so we can support each other."
Lenox will play No. 1 Granby in the championship game at Westfield State University on Saturday at 11 a.m. The boys will play on Sunday. Fenton is hopeful it will be an eventful weekend for Lenox.
"I always go back to my sister's senior year. This was six years ago, her team won Western Mass. and the boys team won Western Mass. I remember the euphoria on their faces was amazing," Fenton said. "I see my boys, and I think we can do that exact same thing. We can win Western Mass. together."
Lenox 0 0 0
Gateway 0 0 — 0
Penalty kicks - Lenox 4 (Kristin Parkinson NG, Katherine Nichols G, Abby Schilling G, Shelby Lynch G, Sarah Fenton G). Gateway 3 Juliana Dickinson-Trenholm G, Ava Auclair NG, Jessica Van Heynigen G, Rebecca Hyjek G, Erin Harris NG).
Saves - L: Sophie Patella 6. G: Becca Herman 4.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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