LENOX, Mass. -- The Lenox boys soccer team was finding no room to maneuver in the early going of Wednesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 4 quarter-final.
So Keveen Delgado made some for himself.
In the 18th minute, Delgado wove around four defenders inside the 18 and knocked a right-footed shot inside the far post for the only goal Lenox needed in an eventual 4-0 win over Smith Academy.
The top-seeded Millionaires (8-9-2) advanced to Thursday’s sectional semi-finals, where they will face Mount Everett, a 1-0 winner over Hopkins Academy on Thursday afternoon. The Berkshire County rivals will play Thursday evening at Wahconah Regional High School for a berth in the Western Mass final.
Delgado’s individual effort was just what Lenox needed against Smith (6-14), which packed it into the defensive third in front of keeper Ryan Belina (six saves).
“It was funny, [assistant coach] Jeff Egan, about 30 seconds before the goal, said, given that we were trying to find little ways to change our strategy … ‘Maybe we should let Keveen take on a guy or to,’ “ Lenox coach Matt Cote said. “And sure enough, he had the ball, and we said, ‘Go ahead, take ‘em on,’ and, sure enough, it resulted in a goal. It’s funny how you get an idea, and you see it happen quickly thereafter.
“They had huge numbers in the box. And I scouted them on Saturday, and that’s exactly what I saw. They play at two ends of the field. The midfield, we felt we could have our way, which is what happened. But it’s tough to score when you have nine guys in white shirts inside the 18.”
Lenox dominated the first half in terms of possession, but it was still a one-goal game when Smith generated its best offensive chance of the night, a shot on goal in the 37th minute that Jacob Munch stopped to preserve his shutout.
Smith was able to maintain some possession in the offensive third for about a two-minute stretch around that shot, but Lenox answered with a counter that ended with Mateo Phillips putting back the rebound of his own shot to make it 2-0 at the break.
During the half-time, Lenox was able to regroup and re-energize.
“I was proud of the guys in the second half in particular,” Cote said. “They picked up our intensity. Our intensity in the first half was pretty low. We’ve been preaching communication all year long, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get these guys to be vocal and energetic. It was pretty quiet in the first half today.
“They picked up the energy, definitely, in the second half.”
Midway through the half, Phillips fed Zach Suffish at the top of the 18, and he took a couple of touches before firing one past Belina to make it 3-0.
Delgado added a final goal in the 79th minute.
Lenox takes a three-game unbeaten streak into Thursday’s semi-finals, including a tie against D3 semi-finalist Mount Greylock and a 2-0 win over Mount Everett in the regular season finale. Back in the regular season opener, the Millionaires topped the Eagles, 5-1, in Sheffield.
Cote knows how far Mount Everett has come and isn’t expecting a four-goal game in Round 3.
“They’re a very good side,” he said of the Eagles, many of whom showed up to watch Wednesday’s game after their quarter-final win Wednesday afternoon in Westfield. “The tournament is a different animal than the regular season. It’s always that way.
“They gave us a better showing the second time around. We are going to treat them like this is the championship, because it’s going to feel like it. We have to play our best soccer, absolutely.”