Generals Grab Another Tie Against MountiesWILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Perception can be a tricky thing.
Most teams would be happy, estatic even, to cap off an undefeated season in front of their home fans on Senior Day. Most players on a squad which built up a record of 14-0-3 would be proud of their impressive mark, maybe even puff their chest out a little bit at the fact that not once in 17 games did they ever come out on the losing end.
The Mount Greylock boys' soccer team isn't like most teams, however, not with its play and certainly not with its expectations for the 2011 season.
So when the Mounties gave up a game-tying goal to Pittsfield's Chris McGovern in the 49th minute, they didn't want their stellar regular season to end with a draw. And when it couldn't score the game winner despite holding a 13-2 edge in shots in the second half, Greylock walked off its home field feeling down about its performance in the regular season finale, a 1-1 tie with the Generals at home. It was the second 1-1 tie Pittsfield had earned against the top team in Berkshire County this year and just the third draw for the Mounties all season long.
"We're so fortunate to be in a position where a tie feels like a loss for us," Greylock head coach Blair Dils said. "But really, that's our reality. We did just finish the regular season undefeated and yet our players were upset that they let this team tie us. That's the mentality of this team, but they don't think about those things for too long. It's always about what's coming up next."
Wednesday's game concluded a remarkable regular season for the Mounties, who went undefeated in Berkshire County League play on their way to the North Division title. Greylock will now most likely be the top seed in the Division 2 Western Mass. Soccer Tournament when the brackets are released on Thursday and should have a bye in the first round of play.
The Generals are also heading to the posteason, where they will take their 10-4-4 record into the Division 1 tournament. Pittsfield has to be feeling good about itself after Wednesday's match, especially considering they were the only team on the Mounties' schedule this year that didn't drop a game against Greylock. Lenox earned a 1-1 tie with the Mounties in late September but fell 1-0 in the rematch against them last week.
"I believe we are as good as they are," Generals head coach Andrew Antil said about his team's success against Greylock. "Man for man, I think we match up very well. They're a very strong team and they have been since I've been around anway. Coach Dils is an outstanding coach, but I think a lot of it is we have a lot of seniors this year. We have a lot of strong players, we have a lot of speed and the team chemistry this year is really good."
Antil forgot to mention how opportunistic his team is as well. Despite being outshot 13-2 in the second half, Pittsfield outscored the hosts 1-0 thanks to McGovern's goal nine minutes after the break. The Generals' offense did a nice job of playing a ball from middle of the field out to the left wing, allowing Joe Botto the opportunity to track it down. He lofted a cross back into the box that bounced once and found McGovern with his back to the ball. The Pittsfield forward spun around hit a turnaround volley shot that hit off of Greylock goalie Sean Houston's hands and fell inside the left post.
"It was a good turn and finish," Dils said. "We talk about them because they are a quick-strike team. They're going to need that and be very opportunistic in the Division 1 tournament. But they do tend to rise up and play pretty well against us."
The Generals' defense certainly raised its level of play in the final 30 minutes. After a fairly even first half, the Mounties went on the attack to try and net the go-ahead goal. They had a few good chances off of set pieces, the first coming when senior captain Ryan Mahar was taken down just outside of the goal box. Junior Nathan Majumder took the direct kick from 20 yards out and slapped a low shot that forced Pittsfield keeper Keiland Cross to drop to his right to make a one-handed save.
With just under eight mintues left in the game, senior midfielder Tom Dils drilled a free kick into a pile of players in front of the Generals' goal. Majumder knew a volley attempt was coming and won the ball, but his shot was slightly off target and sailed over the crossbar. Majumder took on several Pittsfield defenders in the final five mintues of the game, getting off a pair of hard-hit, low shots on net, Cross was there each time, however, making the two biggest of his six saves on the day.
So what's Antil's secret to holding down a Greylock offense that scored 3.4 goals per game this season?
"It's discipline," he said. "They say anybody can play defense, it's just are you willing to committ to it? We have a few defensive breakdowns on occasions, but for us, it's about whoever wants to come in and play strong and smart, do their own personal job and work together as a team."
"We had plenty of opportunities," Dils said. "We were in position to score goals, but we just didn't quite execute, and I thought their goalie played really, really well today. He made some very good saves, but they were a little bit at him. They were within his range, and I think a couple of them we could have just found the side panel."
The Mounties opened the scoring in the 23rd minute on Dils' 10th goal of the season. After a couple of nice little passes in the middle of the field, Majumder used a back-heel pass to find an open Dils, who took one touch and shot low into the net for a 1-0 lead. Scoring goals might be of some concern now for Greylock, which recently lost leading scoring Jesse Foehl to an ankle injury. Foehl has found the back of the net 14 times this season so far, meaning someone else will have to pick up the slack in his abscence.
"This is the third game he's been out," Dils said. "We're trying some different things and getting some other guys in. We're trying to push Nathan up a little bit and see what we can do."