Munemo Goal Lifts Mounties to Tie with Ludlow
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- As Mount Greylock junior midfielder Julius Munemo put it, this felt like a win even though it was only a tie.
Hosting the defending Division I state champion Ludlow Lions on Friday evening at John T. Allen Field, Mount Greylock proved its mettle with a relentless effort that led to a 1-1 draw. Munemo’s equalizer with 22:23 remaining in the match forced the tie, while serving as a great reward for the spirited effort that the Mounties delivered all night long.
“That is something that we have been trying to do is to play a complete, 80-minute game,” Mounties head coach Blair Dils said. “Even though they got a goal on us, I thought we defended really well. They are a high-powered team and they’ve got dangerous athletes all over the place. I’m just really proud with how the guys played. The back line played great and it was nice of us to get a set-piece goal and an equalizer. I felt a tie was the right result. It was very even back-and-forth, and we definitely earned one point tonight.”
Having reached the midway part of the season, the Mounties (7-1-1) look to carry momentum from Friday’s result to help finish strong heading into the playoffs. The team figures to have plenty of confidence moving forward after going toe-to-toe with the top team in the entire state from last year.
“We’re going to be in the mix, for sure,” Dils said. “To be able to hold those guys to a goal and get a point from them when they’re the defending state champs, we’re just pleased to come out of here with that one point.”
The contest was competitive from the very onset, as the two sides slugged their way to a scoreless halftime break. Passes were crisp and precise, shots clean and on target, and stops made with ease by both goalkeepers and defenses. Both clubs hit the ground running at a fast tempo, and that pace continued throughout the entire match.
The Lions (7-1-3) managed seven shots on goal in the first half, with five of them turned away by Mounties goalie Oscar Low. With just under two minutes before the break, Low made his toughest stop of the half on a direct blast from ten yards straight out.
Greylock managed six shots in the opening half, with Ludlow keeper Emilio Mancuso coming up with five of his eight saves to keep the hosts scoreless in the first.
The tug-of-war continued in the second, before the Lions finally drew first blood with a goal with 28:23 left in the action. Tyler Goncalves sent a cross kick that Michael Riley then stuck into the corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage.
It took exactly six minutes for Mount Greylock to respond. Finn Welch placed a free-kick deep and right into the thick of the pack in front of the net, and Munemo got his head on it to redirect it into the corner of the goal.
“I was going to hold back, which is typically what I do there, but Coach told me to go in,” Munemo said. “I just trusted what he said, and as soon as I saw Finn run up to kick the ball I felt something and I started going before the kick and it got me in the right position. The ball was incredible and it flicked off the back of my head and went in. There is nothing like that feeling. I’ve scored two good goals here on this field now, and that was definitely one of them.”
The fans showed up in strong support on Friday, and Munemo’s score brought them all roaring to life in approval.
“It feels crazy,” Munemo said. “There were some alums down there by the goal after I scored, and the first thing I did was run over and I pointed to my Greylock shirt and I told them that I did it for them. We talked before the game about how this season is about legacy for all of us, because we’ve been playing together for so long. I’m surrounded by great players that I’ve known for a long time, so shout out to all of them. That’s what made the tie possible.”
With things evened back up, the final minutes of the game proved to be the most exciting and most aggressive. Having finally found the net against the number two ranked team in the state, the Mounties pushed hard for the go-ahead score that would have completed the comeback upset. Tyler Canata took a direct shot with ten minutes left that was stopped by Mancuso, a shot from Welch with six minutes left sailed just wide and John Skavlem also had a shot stopped with roughly three minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, the Lions found things more difficult on offense in the second half due to some great adjustments the Mounties made at the break. Defenders made it a habit of cutting off passing lanes and intercepting passes, which offset Ludlow’s entire offensive rhythm down the stretch.
“Because we had the wind, we decided to press higher up the field,” Dils said. “Whereas in the first half we sat back and absorbed it a little bit more, in the second half we wanted to come out and dictate the terms of the match a little bit more than we did in the first half. We created a lot of opportunities. Some of it was just the mental switch in knowing we had the wind at our backs, so guys felt free to just go forward and intercept passes, go goal-to-goal and there were a lot of great things happening. There were some great tackles out there that led to some counter-attacking opportunities.”
The Lions had one last scoring chance with five minutes left, but a penalty kick from Michael Riley ricocheted off the left side bar.
Both teams took 15 shots on goal and both keepers recorded eight saves.
Mount Greylock has now taken on the top two teams in the entire state this season, after opening the year with a 4-0 loss to the Longmeadow Lancers. Longmeadow (12-0-1) also gave Ludlow its only loss of the season to earn its top state ranking.