WESTFIELD, Mass. — Even at full strength, the Mount Greylock boys soccer team was going to have an uphill climb on Saturday afternoon against defending Western Massachusetts champion Belchertown.
Once the Mounties effectively lost the services of its two top scorers, the obstacle was insurmountable.
Nicholas Drost and Oliver Hopkins scored to lead Belchertown (19-2) to a 2-0 win over Mount Greylock in the Western Mass Division 3 Championship game at Westfield State University.
The Mounties finished the season with 13 wins, four losses and four ties but without leading scorer Sam Dils or second-leading scorer Eric Hirsch, who accounted for 23 of the Mounties' 49 goals between them this fall.
Hirsch could not even make it through warm-ups while dealing with a hip flexor suffered on Monday night against Wahconah. Dils received a contusion to his right thigh in the opening moments of Saturday's game, hobbled through much of the contest and finally settled for a spot on the bench.
"Losing Eric, we went from three-dimensional to one-dimensional, and then when Sammy went down, oof, that's tough to take," Mount Greylock coach Blair Dils said. "We don't have too many true strikers on the team.
"With the injuries, we didn't have any speed on top to take advantage of backs that I thought were pretty average. They kept us off the board, but if Sam and Eric are running at those four backs, the ball's in the front half more. That takes pressure off of our midfield and our backs, and maybe we can stretch the game into the 78th, 80th minute."
Instead, Belchertown kept the pressure on the Mounties most of the way, especially from about the 10-minute mark on.
Mount Greylock goalkeeper Cal Filson (four saves) made a diving stop on Christopher Noga midway through the first half to keep it a scoreless game, and David Majetich headed out back-to-back corner kick opportunities between the 22nd and 26th minutes.
But Belchertown broke through with 7 minutes, 19 seconds left in the half. Drost curled a shot under the crossbar from the top of the 18-yard box to give his team the lead for good.
"We wanted to get behind the ball," Blair Dils said. "We wanted to keep it zero-zero in the first half. If we had our break, obviously, we were going to go for it in the first half. But if we could turn it into a 40-minute game, we thought we could put some pressure on them. And we darn near did it."
Early in the second half, Filson turned in another highlight-reel save on a try by Cameron Messier from the top of the 18.
But in the 56th minute, Messier took a try from the right wing that deflected off a Mountie defender and onto the foot of
Hopkins, who buried his shot in the back of the net to provide the final margin.
For the Mounties, the final game of the season came against the same team as last year but not in the same round. A year ago, Belchertown beat Mount Greylock in the sectional semi-finals.
Junior back Jake Foehl said there is some measure of satisfaction in getting another rung up the ladder, but not enough to take the sting out of Saturday's loss.
"You always want to end the season feeling you did your best," Foehl said.
"No one was expecting us to get this far, but it doesn't make it any easier."
With just five seniors graduating off this year's squad, more might be expected of Mount Greylock in 2014.
Blair Dils admits to being one of those who was pleasantly surprised by this year's run.
"We kind of always feel like we should be in the Western Mass final, or at least the semi-final, definitely," he said. "Maybe this is a little bit ahead of schedule. We thought Monument was going to be really strong this year. We knew Pittsfield was going to be strong.
"To get here to the finals, maybe in the back of my head it's one step farther than I expected us. But we want to be here and have this opportunity, and I don't care how old the guys are. If we're putting all ninth-graders out there, this is where we want to get to."