CHICOPEE, Mass. -- Less than a minute into the second overtime period on Thursday night, Monson ended the Mount Everett boys soccer team’s season in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 semi-finals.
With a roster dominated by underclassmen, the Eagles are anything but finished.
“We just tell ‘em, we’ve experienced it, we’ve made it here,” Mount Everett coach Joe McSpiritt said after a dispiriting 3-2 loss to the Mustangs. “This is the second year in a row we’ve made it to the semis, and just not be satisfied. Take it a step further next year.”
This year, it is fifth-seeded Monson (9-8-3) that will step onto the field at Springfield Central on Sunday to face No. 1 Lenox (10-8) for the sectional title.
The Mustangs survived an emotional game that saw each side take a second half lead and each nearly get a game-winner in the closing moments of regulation and the first OT.
For much of the game, Monson looked to be in the driver’s seat, keeping Mount Everett pinned in its end of the field. And even though most of its shots were wide of the net, the Eagles faced a steady diet of pressure in the 18.
Fortunately for them, Michael Devoti (five saves) and the Mount Everett defense were equal to the challenge most of the night.
“He’s a great shot stopper,” McSpiritt said of the freshman keeper. “Always ready to come out and times when to attack the ball really well. So, if the ball gets in behind our defense, I’m confident of him coming out and getting it. His teammates are confident in him coming out to get the ball. He’s played really well.”
On those occasions when it looked like the Eagles might be able to get something going on the offensive end, those chances all too often disappeared with a whistle for offsides.
“They were stepping up,” McSpiritt said of the Mustangs. “Their defensive line was pulling up when we looked to send the ball in. It definitely got us early. And we really didn’t catch on to it for most of the game. But that happens.”
After a scoreless stalemate in the first half, Monson broke through for the game’s first goal in the 46th minute. Gabriel Zippin turned on a cross into the box from Prescott Watson on the right wing.
It stayed 1-0, Monson for 16 minutes before the Eagles finally got their offense in gear.
With 17 minutes, 2 seconds on the clock, Michael Ullrich headed home a corner kick by David Bautista-Cruz to tie the match.
Less than a minute later, Bautista-Cruz earned his second assist of the night, this time feeding Andrew Consolini to give Mount Everett a 2-1 lead.
McSpiritt said that Ullrich’s goal was a big confidence boost for his side.
“It’s a young team, so they haven’t experienced this quite as much as we’d want them to,” he said. “Realizing we can play. … Definitely the goal helps us. Huge on a set-piece. And we had an eighth-grader [Ullrich] rise up and head it home. That gave us a ton of energy.”
The Eagles, who played some of their most inspired soccer in the last 20 minutes of regulation, held the lead for seven minutes before Monson’s Shawn Jalbert put home the equalizer with 9:23 on the clock.
The Mustangs nearly put things out of reach in the final four minutes, but an apparent go-ahead goal was waved off by the same call that plagued Mount Everett all night: offsides.
The Eagles had a corner kick try in the waning seconds, but Monson keeper Trenton Hill picked the ball out of the air to send things to overtime.
In the first 10-minute OT, Mount Everett had a couple of good chances: a direct free kick from about 28 yards that was just wide of the net and a corner kick that Hill punched out of the 6.
Then, in the first minute of the second overtime, a Monson free kick from high on the left wing ended up finding the toe of Noah Martinson, who put home the game-winner.
McSpiritt said felt good about his team’s chances going into overtime.
“I was pretty confident because that last 20 minutes we controlled a lot of the game,” he said. “We saw a lot of the ball and were able to get some good chances -- obviously two goals. And then they took advantage of a set piece. The ball bounces one way, and it ended up in our net.”