Mount Gryelock Boys Come Back to Win Western Mass Title
AGAWAM, Mass. – With the game – and a Western Mass championship – on the line, the Mount Greylock boys soccer team had the right person in the right spot on Wednesday night.
After Ware was whistled for a handball about 20 yards from the goal in the 66th minute of its Class C regional final against the Mounties, Mount Greylock senior George Munemo stepped up and did his thing.
“I was thinking about this right after I scored: It’s the fourth free kick I’ve scored on this year,” Munemo said after Mount Greylock’s 2-1 win at Agawam High School. “I’ve scored, I think, more free kicks than any other kind of goal.
“I know I can score it. It’s just looking for a hole in the wall, a hole in their defense. I saw one near post, so I just hit it as hard as I could, and it went in.”
And it completed a come-from-behind win for the Mounties’ first Western Mass title since 2008, when they won under the old post-season format where a sectional title meant a trip to the state semi-finals.
After numerous trips back to the Western Mass final in the pre-statewide tournament era and runs to the new look Western Mass final in 2021 and '22, Wednesday’s win gave everyone in the Mount Greylock boys soccer family a chance to exhale.
“It’s been a while, right?” Mounties head coach Blair Dils said. “We’re into another decade. So it’s nice, obviously. The guys have worked really hard.
“We were a little miffed at Masslive, one of your rivals here, that didn’t even mention us as a team to watch in the [eight-team] Class C tournament. So we put that on the bulletin board and used that all week.”
The Mounties, who had a deceptively pedestrian 7-6-3 record against a tough schedule coming into Wednesday’s final, had their hands full with Ware (16-1-2) in the first half.
Mount Greylock started strong, with shots on goal from Everett Crowe, Everett Bayliss and Quinn McDermott in the first 12 minutes, but most of the Mounties’ opportunities came outside the 18.
The first really dangerous chance of the night came from Ware’s Owen McKeever, who had a try from deep on the right wing that was saved for a corner kick by Lex Anaganos (10 saves) in the 14th minute.
Eight minutes later, Ware’s Connor Moody took a try from about 30 yards that forced Anagnos to make a diving save that gave up another corner kick.
Ware finally cashed in an opportunity in the 37th minute. Reme Cahalan started the play with a free kick from 25 yards out. McKeever played the ball inside the 18 back to Joruan Mukiibi, who finished to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Mount Greylock nearly found the equalizer with just more than two minutes left in the half. Simon Shin carried the ball into the 18 and sent a low line drive that forced the Ware keeper to make a diving save that kept the ball in play. Declan Rogers and Bayliss each had a chance at a rebound before the ball bounced harmlessly over the end line.
Just before the Mounties took the field to start the second half, veteran Mount Greylock assistant coach Mike Russo grabbed Munemo and Bayliss to talk about the game plan for the final four minutes.
“The first half we were playing with a flat midfield, kind of,” Munemo said. I was more on the right with Simon [Shin] on the left and John Manuel [Morales] in the middle. [Russo] was telling me to play underneath Everett, kind of, because he was alone when we were trying to hit him on the counter attack. So I would just pick up the loose balls …
“That’s how we got our first goal from Everett. I played through to Declan, and he gave it to Everett.”
That goal came in the 62nd minute, just the second of the year for the speedy ninth-grader Bayliss. And it could not have come at a better time.
“Great play by Declan to maintain possession of the ball,” Dils said. “We were trying to make those little passes into that area there. And [Bayliss] is just an explosive player and can get through the tall trees that are back there. He did a great job to be composed in the box and placed in the corner.
“George, Declan and Everett. We like to see goals where we get the hockey assist. So that was a nice momentum builder for us and really energized the team.”
Four minutes later, that energy generated the pressure that forced Ware into a costly handball that led to Munemo’s game-winner.
Dils said that the experience will help his squad as it moves into the Division 5 State Tournament, where the Mounties carry the 13th seed and await the winner of a preliminary round game between Greenfield and Salem Academy.
“Because we’re going to see turf a lot more [in the tournament],” he said. “So just the way we played. We can play to feet. We know we can deal with adversity. We can come back against an undefeated team.
“But now it’s for real. It’s one-and-done, and if we have a bad start like we did, then we may be packing our bags the next day.”