DALTON, Mass. -- A well-timed timeout paid big dividends for the Lenox boys soccer team on Thursday night.
With 19 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game and the Millionaires clinging to a 1-0 lead against Mount Everett in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 semi-finals, Lenox coach Matt Cote called his side to the sideline.
When play resumed, Lenox scored two goals in less than a minute en route to a 3-0 win and a return trip to the sectional title game.
“I don’t like calling timeouts,” Cote said. “It doesn’t feel authentic. “But you have them, and sometimes you have to use them. That little stretch there for two minutes [before the timeout], Everett was earning free kick after free kick, whether it was a corner or a free kick from 35/40 yards. And that No. 3 [Nikos Casivant] can blast the ball.
“So we were panicking a little bit. And it’s understandable. If you’re a team that’s down a goal, you’re going to start pressing, and you’re going to start wreaking havoc. As a team, it’s not always easy to deal with that pressure. So, I called timeout and told them, ‘Relax. You have to keep playing soccer.’ “
And boy did Lenox ever.
Two minutes after the timeout, Andre Collins scored an unassisted goal to double the lead to 2-0. Fifty-eight seconds later, Herkus Rudzinskas set up Zach Suffish for an insurance tally.
That was more than enough for Jacob Munch (three saves) and the Lenox defense as the top-seeded Millionaires (9-9-2) set up a date in Saturday's Western Mass final against No. 3 Westfield Tech (19-1), which advanced past Pioneer Valley on penalty kicks on Thursday night.
The winning goal for Lenox came midway through the first half, when Keveen Delgado, the lone remaining starter from last year’s Western Mass title run, scored unassisted after making some nifty moves inside the 18 and striking one past Patrick Silk (eight saves).
Mount Everett (10-5-1), which came into the game dealing with a couple of injuries in the back, managed to hold the potent Lenox offense at bay from there, sending the game to half-time with the Millionaires on top, 1-0.
The Eagles, who were in the sectional semi-finals for just the second time in program history, may have run out of steam a little bit playing their second game in two days due to Tuesday’s rainouts. But Mount Everett coach Joshua King was not making excuses.
He was, however, making plans for another playoff run in 2019.
“I think, based on some of their reactions from today, I hope they’re not satisfied with just getting here,” King said. “We want to be getting to that next level. We want to be playing in the finals and giving ourselves a chance at that.
“A lot of it comes in the off-season … coming prepared, being in shape, getting stronger mentally and physically.”
King needed only to show his team the example set by the Millionaires, who reloaded after last year’s title run.
“It speaks to the character of these kids,” Cote said. “These kids are hard-working, honest, very, very genuine kids. Excellent sportsmen, through and through. We’ve played 20 games now, and we have a total of one yellow card. It was a tackle in the field of play. It wasn’t taunting or anything like that.
“It speaks to their resolve. It speaks to their, sort of underdog nature. There are a lot of people out there who probably think we shouldn’t be going this far. They were right to think that way. You lose 10 starters … you lose a Division I goalie. They’re coming together.”
And they’ve come through the Berkshire County North Division, where they compete against Division 3 and Division 1 opponents.
“The record doesn’t look awesome, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” Cote said. “We are battle tested. It gets you used to physical toughness, physical speed of play, team speed, all of that stuff. We’re maybe not as polished as we could be or maybe were, but it’s just the grit that I love to see in these guys.”