Lenox Boys Reach D4 Semi-Finals
LENOX, Mass. -- Western Massachusetts high school boys soccer fans have gotten used to seeing Michael Abdalla lead the way for the Lenox Millionaires.
So it was no surprise when he scored twice Tuesday to spur Lenox to a 3-0 win over Hopkins Academy in the Division 4 sectional quarter-finals.
But it was not just the headliners that were key as Lenox continued a five-game winning streak. Bench players were a big factor.
“When I took over [as coach] because I knew I'd been with this Lenox program for a while as a fan and as an assistant, and one thing I always said was there's depth with this program,” Lenox head coach Camilio Bermudez said.
Lenox needed that depth after starting midfielder Matt Heim left with an apparent knee injury in the 10th minute of play. And it needed some more depth when starting middle Nick Monteleon drew his second yellow card of the game in the 53rd minute. And it went to the well again later in the second half when starting defender Joe Bouvier left the game with an inury.
Each time, the Millionaires had an answer.
“We had an outside back, a center mid ready to step in,” Bermudez said. “Keveen Delgado took the place of Matt Heim and played extremely well.
“If anything, Keveen Delgado's play worked well for this game. He's a freshman, and he doesn't want to be on the ball. He got on the ball, played it and didn’t take any touches that would put him in a precarious position.”
It took a while for all the Millionaires to get comfortable against a physical, seventh-seeded Hopkins squad.
“When the seedings came out, this was the last team I wanted to play,” Bermudez said of the Hawks (8-10-2). “They're a classic D4 Pioneer Valley team. They're athletic, they're very strong, and I knew they would come out with that kind of tactic to get us off our game, and I'm going to say the first 20 minutes it worked.”
Despite two dangerous chances for Abdalla in the first two minutes of play, it was a 0-0 game until the 34th minute, when Luke Murphy ended up on the end of a Nic Baruch cross from the right wing and buried a shot to give Lenox (14-2-3) a 1-0 lead.
“It was a huge relief,” Lenox defender Noah Kalischer-Coggins said. “We really didn't know where the game was going to go in that first 15 minutes. Luke's goal really locked it down for us.”
Fewer than three minutes later, Abdalla converted the rebound of a Monteleon blast from well outside the 18 to make it 2-0.
Hopkins came out strong to start the second half, but Matt Tibbetts (five saves) made a couple of big stops, including a tester off the boot of John Earle in the 55th minute.
About midway through the period, the tide turned and Lenox was able to keep Hopkins pinned in its end. Hawks keeper Adam Yahman (11 saves) did his best to keep his team in the game, but the Millionaires’ pressure finally paid off when Abdalla scored his second of the game in the final minute to put an exclamation point on the win.
Lenox’s semi-final foe will be third-seeded Granby (17-2), a 4-0 winner over Mount Everett on Tuesday night. That game will be Thursday at 5 p.m. at South Hadley High School.