Belchertown Edges Mount Greylock in Western Mass Final
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Fighting back tears and wanting to be anywhere else in the world, Mount Greylock boys soccer captain Mitchell Jezouit Saturday had the unenviable task of accepting the Western Massachusetts Division 3 runner-up trophy.
As he made his way toward the award, the frustration of a generation of Mounties dominated his thoughts.
"I let all my brothers down," Jezouit said moments after a 2-1 loss to Belchertown on Springfield Central's Berte Field. "Second place is first loser.
"It's not where we wanted to be at the end of this match. We live and we learn. Maybe we'll get them. I wish the boys the best of luck."
Jezouit has a unique perspective on Mount Greylock's decade-long struggle to get past Belchertown and back to the top of the heap in Western Mass.
"That 2014 final game, I was the ball boy," he said. "Ever since then, I've wanted this championship so, so much.
"It means so much more than 2019."
That 2014 game was one of Mount Greylock's seven losses to Belchertown in the semi-finals or later since the Mounties' state championship season of 2008.
Coming at the end of a scoreless match and a lenghthy penalty kick shootout, the '14 contest easily was the most frustrating of those losses.
Saturday's game rivals it.
The top-seeded Mounties (15-3-1) who came in with losses only against D1 Longmeadow and Minnechaug, entered the game with one captain, Owen Crowell, nursing an injury and another starter, Julius Munemo, in street clothes.
And things got even tougher when the Mounties leading scorer and third captain, Finn Welch, went down with an injury in the third minute of the game, never to return.
"Not having Julius and Owen being beaten up, that's three guys up your spine," Mount Greylock coach Blair Dils said of losing Welch early. "But we're not going to blame it on the injuries."
Jezouit said that the team was able to refocus after Welch went down.
"Just keep working, keep pressing, don't give up hope," Jezouit said of the conversation at that point. "We still had, I think, 78 minutes left in the game. It's a whole soccer game. We've just got to dig deep and play from the heart. We've seen this result for like the last 10 years. We thought this year was different."
Indeed, it looked like fortune might be on the Mounties' side for once in the 17th minute.
Leo Rossiter pressured up the right side and was rewarded when he blocked a clearance attempt by the Orioles' keeper. Rossiter followed the ball past the keeper and finished into an open net to give Mount Greylock a 1-0 lead.
It lasted just a little less than seven minutes. That is when Belchertown's Ethan Czaporowski ran onto a long ball out of the back an finished with his left foot to tie the game, 1-1.
Although it was still even on the scoreboard at half-time, Dils said the first 40 minutes were not productive for his side.
"Their pressure on the ball was very good in the first half, and they didn't give us a lot of time to possess the ball," Dils said. "One of the things we do well is move the ball side-to-side, wear teams out. ... It was a pretty ugly game if you think about it. There wasn't a lot of attractive futbol being played.
"But that's what they do. They sit back and they absorb your pressure and then they try to counter attack with [Czaparowski], and they were able to do that in the first half."
Jezouit stopped Czaparowski on a golden opportunity four minutes into the second half, but Belchertown got the go-ahead goal in the 49th minute when Hunter LePage curled a shot under the crossbar and over keeper Oscar Low (six saves).
From there, Mount Greylock carried the play for the most part, generating seven second-half shots on goal. But Antonio Martel made the stops he needed to make in order to preserve the Orioles' lead.
"We had to push Emi [Soza-Foias] up front because we lost Finn," Dils said. "So we pushed him up front, brought in some other guys. Owen [Crowell] was coming back from an injury, so we tried to plug him and just have him do the job defensively on [Zachary Lajeneunesse]. Hopefully give Emi some good looks at the goal because he's a good goal-scorer."
Dils, who was on the sideline for Mount Greylock's state title and every post-season disappointment since downplayed the importance of the Belchertown rivalry after Saturday's loss.
"It's just two names," he said. "It's about going out and playing a good game, and we didn't play that great in the first half. They had a lot to do with that. But the second half, you saw our quality. We just couldn't get that tying goal."
And while Jezouit was feeling the sting of disappointment and a sense of letting down teammates past and present, Dils was able to put the 2019 Mount Greylock team into a different perspective.
"We're very proud of the way they came to work and came to learn every day," he said. "We played great soccer this year. With the schedule we had and the results we got.
"You know, in Europe, you're the champion when you win the regular season. We won the regular season. They don't have a one-and-done tournament. But we had a one-and-done tournament, and those guys got the better of us today for a variety of reasons.
"It is what it is."