Novitsky OT Goal Lifts Lenox to Sectional Final
CHICOPEE, Mass. -- Lenox boys soccer coach Camilo Bermudez thought it was only a matter of time before his team would find a way to score on Thursday night.
The Millionaires nearly used all the time they had at their disposal.
Senior JT Novitsky scored after a cross from Michael Ward with fewer than five minutes remaining in the second overtime to give Lenox a 1-0 win over Westfield Tech and a spot in Sunday’s Western Massachusetts Division 4 Championship game.
Second-seeded Lenox (10-8) Sunday afternoon in Springfield will take on No. 5 Monson (9-8-3), a double-overtime winner itself against Mount Everett on Thursday night at Chicopee Comp.
Although Novitsky ended up on his own inside the 6 against a Tiger defender and keeper David Antonovschi, the Lenox captain said it was a group effort to finally cash in an offensive opportunity.
“It started when we won it in the back, and then it was a great team effort,” Novitsky said. “We played it through the midfield. Ward crossed it in, and I was there. But it was a great team effort all throughout the entire game. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.
“We came up really as a team and made everything work.”
Lenox will be gunning for its third straight Western Mass crown. The last team to beat the Millionaires in the sectional tournament? Monson, on penalty kicks in the 2016 Western Mass final.
Bermudez coached that squad in his first go-around with the Lenox program. This fall, he returned to the sidelines for the Millionaires.
After watching his players narrowly avoid another penalty kick shootout, he said Lenox’s post-season experience helped give it confidence that the offense would come.
“I think the nerves aren’t there,” Bermudez said. “I think there was a moment with everyone on the field where it was just like: Let’s just keep moving it forward, and it will come. I don’t want to be arrogant, but it almost felt like we knew it was going to happen because we were creating so many opportunities.
“It was only a matter of time, and we broke them down and got that moment.”
A change of strategy helped, too. Lenox had to change things up to adjust to Westfield Tech’s strength in the back.
“I don’t know who their sweeper is, but he’s outstanding,” Bermudez said. “It was a game where we were just trying to finally get to the corners. We couldn’t build anything in the middle, so we finally got it wide. We finally broke it down to where we got it in the corner and got a good cross.”
Chances were hard to come by for either team on Thursday night.
Daniel Munch stopped seven shots for Lenox. Antonovschi made just four saves for Westfield Tech.
But a number of the Millionaires’ best offensive chances were not official shots on goal, including two of the nearest misses late in the contest.
In the 67th minute of regulation, a corner kick from the right wing side bounced out to Andre Collins at the top of the 18, and his one-timer hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced straight down before Antonovschi was able to get control.
In the seventh minute of the first 10-minute overtime, Mateo Phillips took another corner on the right wing that came back out of the 18 for him on the right side. He recrossed the ball where it eventually found Collins. This time, his shot was on target and in the back of the net, but the Millionaires were whistled for being offsides on the recross, and the goal was waved off.
Novitsky said it was a challenge to refocus after the elation of thinking the game was over at that point.
“It was pretty difficult because we had our bench rush the field, so it’s kind of a big shock to everyone that it got called back,” he said. “But at that point, the call was done, so we just had to move on and put the next one in.”