DALTON, Mass. — In the opening stages on Sunday afternoon, the Wahconah boys soccer team had the better of things in its Western Massachusetts Division 3 quarter-final.
Then things went awry.
“I thought our first 15/20 [minutes] were spectacular,” Wahconah coach John Kovacs said. “We were moving the ball outside, we crossed it in, we had some chances. I think what was crucial — and they got it — was the first goal.”
Hampshire Regional’s Austin Bush got behind a drawn out keeper and beat a defender one-on-one to score in the 16th minute and send the visitors on to a 3-0 win and a berth in
Wednesday’s Tuesday's Wednesday's semi-final against top-seeded Mount Greylock.
Bush scored two goals, and fifth-seeded Hampshire (10-4-4) outshot Wahconah by a margin of 13-2 to snap a three-game winning streak for Kovacs’ team.
Of course, all three of those wins came last month for a Wahconah team that earned a bye in the first round of the sectional playoffs and saw its quarter-final game delayed for three days due to weather.
“I think what hurt us is we had a long layoff — over a week,” Kovacs said. “We played a week ago Wednesday. That’s way too much time.
“It’s just tough getting into a rhythm. And we started off really solid, and I think if we got that goal, it would have gotten us more momentum.”
Wahconah (13-6) had a couple of chances early. Colby Lennon’s header off a corner kick in the eighth minute went just high of the goal. Two minutes later, Easton Eberwein had a dangerous chance deep on the left wing on a cross that he headed toward the net but into the arms of Hampshire keeper Colin Boyle.
Wahconah’s best chance to get the equalizer came in the 25th minute.
Eberwein’s throw-in from the left side into the 18 was headed across the area by Aiden Trager. The ball ended up on the foot of Kevin Huban, who lofted a shot that nearly curled under the crossbar but for Boyle’s leaping save.
Instead getting the tie, Wahconah gave up a second goal just before half-time when Hampshire’s Cade LaChapelle turned on a cross from the right wing at the top of the 18 and fired a shot past Jack Perenick (10 saves) to make it 2-0.
Bush scored a second goal midway through the second half to put the game out of reach.
For Wahconah, it was a second straight loss in its first game of the sectional tourney. But with the bye, Kovacs’ team technically went farther than it did in 2018. And considering last year marked the end of a three-year tournament drought, the back-to-back appearances are a positive sign in Dalton.
“We’re getting more consistent, and we have quality,” Kovacs said. “We’re working hard and improving. And we have the quality to keep it going.
“It’s just very frustrating when you work hard and you get ready for this game and you come short. … I feel for the kids. We have great kids, great leaders, great seniors. And I just told them after the game: Working with you guys is a pleasure. It’s fun.”