GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. – Maya Cooney knew what to expect on the kick and knew where she needed to be.
On an important corner kick early on in Monday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 girls soccer quarterfinal, the Monument Mountain junior forward found herself in perfect position in front of the net, and she struck for the game’s only score.
Coming off an impressive corner kick from junior Fiona Horan just more than seven minutes into the action at Spartan Field, Cooney found the back of the net for the deciding goal. The beautiful symmetry the two realized in that moment so early on may have led fans to assume there was a lot more offense in store. But as both teams dug in defensively, and field conditions continued to deteriorate under a steady rain drizzle, that lone goal held up for the difference, as the host Spartans won, 1-0, over the Southwick Rams.
“Fiona plays on our left wing, and she has a beautiful cross. It was just a great ball by her and I happened to be in my place at the right time,” Cooney said. “It feels pretty amazing. I love this team like I love my family and I am so happy to play another game. It feels absolutely incredible.”
Monument Mountain came into the tournament as the fourth seed, and now it advances to the regional semifinals against the top seed, South Hadley, after the Tigers defeated Mt. Greylock 7-0 in the other quarterfinal. The match will be held on a neutral field at Chicopee Comp on Wednesday.
Although the Spartans (14-4-1) did not manage any more goals, they did control the ball and the tempo most of the way. Monument had 16 shots on goal and was particularly strong at controlling the middle of the playing field.
“The game plan was just to go out there and play Monument soccer and play with heart,” Spartans coach Jess Platt said. “We wanted to take it to them right away and play with intensity for 80 minutes, and that includes the first eight minutes. We got the job done. It feels good to win and we’re pumped to have to practice tomorrow. That’s what we’re playing for is just to be one more day with each other.”
Once they took control with the early lead, the Spartans continued to press for more. They took seven shots in the first half, while allowing only three. As the action wore on, both sides engaged into a tug-of-war, with neither able to seize control of the ball for very long stretches.
The Rams (12-6-1) came in as the fifth seed, off a 2-0 shutout over Frontier in their playoff opener. They held their ground for the final 73 minutes to stay in the fight, and goalkeeper Hannah Gerrish recorded three saves.
But goalie Helen Pajeski and the rest of the Spartan defense proved up to the task in earning the shutout. Although not pressed into a lot of action until late, Pajeski was stout, recording four saves while facing only seven shots on goal overall. Several other well-placed Ram passes were cleared away by the Monument defense.
“They were ready to go, and they have a good, strong mentality,” Platt said. “We were happy to have Helen in net and she is ready to be tested whenever and wherever, and she came up big for us in the second half.”
As the action wore on, the field became tougher and tougher to compete on. Having hosted a lot of action in recent days, coupled with constant rains that continued throughout the contest, the field began to show its wear.
“We played our past game on this field, so we know the spots where it is a little trickier and where the ball stops. So we definitely had the advantage there,” Cooney said. “Near the end everyone was slipping and sliding. But we kind of held our footing because we knew where the bad spots were. So it was definitely an advantage to play at home.”