CHESHIRE, Mass. — It was an ugly day for the "beautiful game," but the result could not have been prettier for the Hoosac Valley High School boys soccer team.
Shaun Knapp scored midway through the first half, and Colby Ells made 10 saves to preserve a 1-0 Hoosac victory over Athol on Friday in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division 3 tournament.
Thursday and Friday's rain left standing water that made most balls on the ground an adventure, and gusting wind played havoc with anything played in the air.
But, fortunately, there was nothing fluky about the deciding goal.
Sean Ryan-Kut played a through ball to Knapp at the top of the 18-yard box, and a couple of touches later, Knapp buried the ball in the back of the net.
"I was given the ball, and I knew I had a defender on me," Ryan-Kut said. "I turned to the left, made a move on him, and Shaun made a cut inside. I led him, and he beat the defender, made a phenomenal move and had an excellent goal.
"It was such a good moment."
A good moment for the senior tri-captains and a momentous occasion for the Hoosac soccer program, which advances to face top-seeded Belchertown on Monday night in the quarterfinals.
"Tom Corrigan, my assistant coach, has been here since '98," second-year coach Camilo Bermudez said. "He always talks about the days when we would have home games for the tournament. It's so nice to be able to say in 2013 we had a home game and we won it.
"They've had home games here, but they haven't won 'em. It's been a long time since they actually picked one up."
The Hurricanes (10-6-2) got this won because Ells picked up everything ninth-seeded Athol (9-7-3) threw his way.
The biggest of his saves came midway through the second half when an Athol forward took a cross from the right wing inside the 18 and fired a hard shot that forced Ells to make a diving save.
"Colby Ells did an amazing job," Ryan-Kut said. "This was probably his best game of the season. He made a couple of diving plays. He was always in position. I'm just really proud of him."
So was Bermudez, who said the junior keeper had been struggling a little of late.
"I'll be honest, his confidence was a little low for a bit because he gave up the five [goals] agaisnt Hampshire," Bermudez said. "Today, he knew what he had to do and made some great saves."
In addition to Ells' fine play in goal, the elements may have played a role in keeping both offenses in check on Friday. The south end of the field was quite a bit more treacherous than the north, which made it tougher for defenders to react, but the wind from the south made it considerably harder for teams to break out of the "good" end of the field.
Both coaches said the playing conditions forced a change in strategy.
"We were going to one-touch out of the back here in the second half," said Athol's David King, whose team defended the sloppier end after half-time. "But I think Hoosac had it in the back for about three minutes, so we didn't have to do that."
"We originally came in with the idea of high-pressure defense," Bermudez said. "Once we realized the field was that bad and guys were going to slip ... the idea was just to get through the first 40.
"Not only did we get by the first 40, we scored."