NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The McCann Tech girls soccer team Tuesday exploded for three second-half goals en route to the program's third ever Western Massachusetts tournament victory.
Molly Boyer and Dana Canales each had a goal and an assist as the Hornets defeated Pathfinder, 4-1, to advance to the Division 4 sectional quarter-finals on Friday at second-seeded Gateway Regional (12-2-2).
Hornets coach Mike Dowling credited Canales and classmate Reva Whitman, the team's lone seniors, for helping a freshman-dominated McCann Tech squad -- unbeaten in its last seven games -- improve to 14-2-4.
"Even the seniors and juniors, everyone has meshed together," Dowling said. "The seniors have definitely stepped up to lead the freshmen.
"That's a big responsibility for those two girls, and they played a good game today."
McCann Tech played a solid all-around game, holding Pathfinder to just one first-half shot on goal despite playing most of first 40 minutes in the Hornets' end of the field, and dominating the second half until McCann's starters took a seat with a four-goal lead late.
"They passed, they actually trapped the ball today, they passed well, they found the open spaces," Dowling said. "We had to play a little bit of kick ball [early] because of their defensive style. But when we settled down in the second half, the passing was nice."
The Hornets broke a scoreless tie with a set piece goal midway through the first half.
Canales started the play with a corner kick from the right wing. The ball kicked back out to the wing, and Canales centered it into the 6, where a Pathfinder defender attempted to clear up the middle.
Freshman Boyer intercepted the ball just outside the 18 and fired a shot into the corner of the goal past a diving Pathfiner keeper.
The Hornets maintained that 1-0 lead into half-time, but it took very little time to double the margin after the break.
In the 41st minute, freshman Camryn Belilse ripped a shot from the top of the 18 that Pioneers' keeper Mackayla Weldon was able to stop but not control. Canales was there to put home the rebound and make it a 2-0 game.
Fourteen minutes later, Boyer set up Belisle for a shot from just outside the 18 on the right side that curled under the crossbar. Sarah Fortini provided the final margin with a goal assisted by Gabby Schneider in the 64th minute.
Pathfinder's Hannah Montanez, who had a couple of strong chances to give her team the lead in a scoreless match early, finally got the visitors on the board with less than two minutes remaining.
By that time, Dowling had liberally substituted his bench players, making sure to get tournament experience for as many of his young players as he could.
All the Hornets have been able to get a lot of good experience this season - and post-season.
"They've been in four big games so far this season, the freshmen: first-place [in the Tri-County League], Western Mass, State Voc," Dowling said. "Such great experience for them. And they get it on the bench, too, because I have no JVs. They're just getting into the varsty and working their way up.
"My whole starting midfield is freshmen. And Day 1 to now, what a difference. The team meshes well together."
More photos from this game here.