Lenox Girls Reach Western Mass Final on Penalty Kicks
HOLYOKE, Mass. -- As tie-breaking methods go, the penalty kick shootout can seem arbitrary, random and pretty much a matter of luck.
Well, sometimes you make your own luck.
Lenox senior Sarah Fenton went to the spot on Thursday night with a plan and the confidence to execute it.
And with a chance to send her team to Saturday’s Western Massachusetts Division 4 title game, Fenton was spot on.
“Being a senior captain, I’ve always felt like I’m a leader on the team,” Fenton said. “When I realized it came down to me, I realized that it’s not about me anymore. It’s about the rest of my team. And I’ve practiced that PK every practice for the last three weeks.
“All I could think about was doing that and being there for my team. … I know our team has the potential to win Western Mass, and I just had to do it for us so we could get there.”
Her shootout-deciding goal sends the third-seeded Millionaires (12-5-3) into Saturday morning’s sectional final against No. 1 Granby (12-5-3), which advanced Thursday with a 3-0 win over Ware.
Lenox and No. 2 Gateway (12-3-3) played 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime without a goal from either team.
That sent things to the shootout, where the Gators gained an early advantage thanks to Juliana Dickinson-Trenholm’s goal in the first round. Lenox could not answer, and Gateway had a 1-0 lead.
But the Gators’ next try sailed well over the crossbar, and Katherine Nichols converted to even the score at 1-1 through two rounds.
The teams then traded successful kicks until the fifth round. That is when Gateway’s shot hit the crossbar, and Fenton got the call.
Even though she had the seeming advantage of watching four other tries against Gateway’s keeper, Fenton said she was not interested in using that knowledge.
“She was closing out the side that I always go to, but I said, ‘I’m still going to that side,’ “ Fenton said. “I don’t care what she does because I’ve practiced that kick, and I’ve made it. And if I changed it up, things could have been completely different.”
Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuk said that as much as he dislikes the shootout, it felt like an inevitability as the second half progressed -- both because of the teams’ recent history (Lenox advanced past Gateway in a shootout two years ago) and because of the tough defense each team played on Thursday night.
But midway through the second overtime, Gateway generated the best chance either team had to end the game before it got to penalty kicks.
“We were looking through our PK list trying to figure out who we might have,” Zinchuk said. “We were looking at the phone, and I’m looking down the field, and I tap my assistant say, ‘Look, look, look, this might be over in a second here.’
“I think it was Jess Van Heynigen who was in behind our defense. We were trying to prevent that all night, but she got in behind that one time. And Sophie [Patella] did a great job all night of coming out and cutting down the angle. That’s what she did: She came out, cut down the angle beautifully and forced Jess to take that shot sooner than I think she wanted to.”
Fenton said that is just what the Millionaires have come to expect from their eighth-grade keeper.
“Sophie [eight saves] has been our savior this entire season,” Fenton said. “There have been times when our defense, as strong as it has been, could not get to the ball. But Sophie is always there.
“We all fought hard to get there, but I knew Sophie would be there because she always is.”