Besnard's Big Saves Powers Greylock over HoosacWILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Margot Besnard withstood the best shot the Hoosac Valley girls’ soccer team had to offer. The Mount Greylock goalie then beat the Hurricanes with one of her own, drilling her penalty-kick shot into the right corner of the goal to spark the Mounties to a 4-2 shootout win and a 2-1 victory in Tuesday night’s Division 2 Western Mass. quarterfinal.
Besnard couldn’t have come up any bigger playing in her final game at John T. Allen Field. She teamed up with sweeper Alexa Adams and stopper Sarah Stripp to withstand a barrage of Hoosac shots in the first half. Had it not been for those three players, Besnard in particular, No. 4 Greylock (11-3-3) could have easily found itself down by two or three goals at halftime.
The fifth-ranked Hurricanes (11-5) started strong on Tuesday, looking to avenge two one-goal losses to the Mounties earlier in the year, the last of which clinched the South Division championship for Greylock 10 days ago. Blair Mahar’s squad earned a 10-0 edge in shots and a remarkable 8-1 advantage in corner kicks in the first half but none of those opportunities found their way past Besnard, who finished the game with 12 mostly incredible saves.
“This was my last game on this field,” Besnard said when asked about her thought process going into the game. “Going through all the memories I’ve had from playing on this team the last five years, I was just thinking about how I wouldn’t want to be with any other team than the one we had today. We’ve had better teams in the past, but there is just something about this team that we believe every second of the game that we can win.”
Besnard certainly believed that in the first half, even when the visitors controlled the majority of the play. Hoosac almost struck less than three minutes into the game when freshman Madison Ryan sent a through ball into Danielle Beauchemin. The senior forward ran into the box all alone, but Besnard came off her line fast enough to force Beauchemin, who led the ’Canes with 13 goals this season, into shooting wide right. The Mounties’ defense was on the run the rest of the first half and had to fend off eight corner kicks, one of which forced Besnard to fall hard to the ground with just under six minutes left before halftime.
With Besnard slow to get up, and the Hurricanes’ offensive firing on all cylinders, it seemed like only a matter of time before Hoosac found the back of the net.
“Obviously, the first half we dominated and mostly the second half,” Mahar said. “They had good moments, but to lose on PKs is disappointing. Margot is awesome. At one point, she made an outstanding save and all I could say is, ‘Oh my God, she’s so good.’ All these shots we were taking, and she’s totally keeping them in it.”
Besnard’s best stretch of the game came early in the second half when she dove to her right to wipe away a point-blank header from eighth-grader Lily Kronick. Two minutes later, she came out of her box to make a sliding tackle on junior Megan Rodowicz and got back up on her feet in time to knock away the ensuing rebound. It was at this point that the tide seemed to turn in favor of the Mounties.
“She has incredible quickness, and she’s just a phenomenal athlete with so much passion for the game,” Greylock head coach Tom Ostheimer said of his senior keeper. “I think we really saw her best game. She didn’t spare anything that’s for sure. When you look at that game, they could have scored four or five goals and put us away early. But she kept us in the game, kept us in the game and allowed our offense a chance.”
The Mounties’ offense eventually did get it going in the second half, and the two teams played even through the end of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods. Each team got a fortunate bounce in order to score just 38 seconds apart early in the second half. The Hurricanes thought they finally had the goal they needed in the 53rd minute, when junior Jennifer Gale dribbled in from 30 yards out. She played a ball into the middle that deflected off of Beauchemin and Stripp and bounced out to the left side of the box. Kronick was there to one-time it high into the net for her seventh goal of the year, leaving Besnard to grasp at air as she was late with a diving attempt.
The Greylock offense, which has been forced to play without injured senior striker Alex Majetich for the past three games, needed a quick spark and it got one from junior Sophie Leamon less than a minute later. Leamon collected a bouncing ball in traffic inside the Hoosac goal box, took one touch and smacked a low, bouncing shot inside the left post.
“She does it in practice a lot actually,” Besnard said. “She has that good low shot she can hit, and she can dribble through girls, too. I was really proud of her. She hasn’t played that well all season, and she brought her level up today.”
It was a demoralizing blow for Hoosac, which had used so much energy trying to get a goal past Besnard. The Hurricanes just weren’t the same team after that. They no longer were dominating the run of play and they didn’t put the same pressure on the Mounties’ defense over the final 45 minutes of the game.
“Hoosac knows they can score,” Besnard said. “They have so many weapons that they know they can score and they know that they should score. But our defense held strong, and we didn’t let them score. That gets to them. It takes a toll on your body when you know you’re working hard and playing so well. If you don’t put the ball in the back of the net, I mean, they were disappointed.”
Greylock freshman Haley Reinhard had the best chance to score late in the game, getting a good look on the left wing before missing with a shot to the right. Leamon had a couple more good opportunities in double overtime, but both teams seemed to slow down after playing 100 minutes of soccer in 20-degree weather.
That set the stage for the penalty-kick shootout, an ending that both coaches didn’t want to see. Besnard embraced the moment, however, stepping up to take her team’s first shot. She drilled a shot past Hoosac goalie Megan Richardson (three saves) into the right corner of the net and then immediately gave her team the momentum it needed by guessing correctly on Beauchemin’s shot to the right.
“I wanted to [shoot] first, so I’m not thinking about my shot when I’m trying to save them,” Besnard said. “I think also that I’m a captain and a leader on the team, so I wanted to go first because I believe I can score and that just sets the example for them.”
Both teams cashed in on their next two attempts before Mackenzie Flynn kept the pressure on the Hurricanes by drilling a shot into the top-left corner to give her team a 4-2 lead. Hoosac freshman Abby Chaput then sailed her attempt over the crossbar, sealing the deal for the Mounties, who now move onto the semifinals to play top-seeded Belchertown (17-0-2).
“We played our hearts out and that’s the way we’ve done it all season,” Ostheimer said. “Belchertown is undefeated, and I think in many ways we’ve had a great season. I think anything that happens from here on in is great. We can play loose, and it will be exciting to have a doubleheader with the boys.”
It was tough finish for Hoosac, which had to say goodbye to Beauchemin and fellow senior Tori Rumbolt. Beauchemin, in particular, played a pivotal role in helping the Hurricanes go 20-10-4 over the past two years, helping a program with numbers issues last year develop into one of the better teams in Berkshire County this year.
“Danielle is just a penultimate soccer player,” Mahar said. “She’s a student of the sport. She’s so strong, she can hold the ball and let her team build around her and then make the through ball. She’s just so powerful, so we’re going to miss her for sure.
“We played well against Monument, PHS and Wahconah. There is some realignment coming up next year, but we’re hoping to be real competitive for the foreseeable future.”