Let Them Eat Cake: Spartan, Mountie Score Game-Winners on Their Birthday

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. – It was a special night under the Friday night lights as four of the best soccer teams in the county – and the state – collided in a double-header.
For two heroes of the games, the whole day was special, and the date always will be.
Mount Greylock senior Lexi Politis broke a scoreless tie in the 52nd minute with a goal that sent the Mounties on to a 4-0 win over Monument Mountain on the day she celebrated her 18th birthday.
Two hours later, Monument Mountain junior Christian Blanchard, who shares a birthday with Politis, shared the status of game-winning goal scorer when he notched the only goal in the Spartans’ 1-0 win over Pittsfield.
Each of the birthday celebrants gave their respective teams a pretty big gift.
The Mount Greylock girls (10-0) entered their game as the No. 2-ranked team in Division 5, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s in-season power rankings. The Mounties’ chances of maintaining that high ranking were improved with a win over the Spartans, the No. 3 team in Division 4, according to the rankings released Friday morning.
The Monument Mountain boys started the day ranked No. 5 in the state in Division 4. Blanchard’s goal helped them survive a fierce challenge from the division’s 15th-ranked team, the Generals.
No one was lighting any candles at Spartan Field, but the lights – and the stars – burned plenty bright.


Mount Greylock had a bit of a positional advantage in the first half.
The Mounties started to tilt the field a little more after half-time.
And then? Politis converted a cross from Nora Lopez to give Mount Greylock a 1-0 lead with 28 minutes, 12 seconds left to play.
Six minutes later, it was a 3-0 lead.
“Basically, we just need the first goal and then everyone is hyped, and we get the energy,” Politis said. “And we’re just like, ‘OK, we can do this.’
“And then the floodgates open, and we just go. Usually, our half-time talks are pretty inspiring.”
Mounties coach Tom Ostheimer was not taking any bows for his skills as a motivational speaker, but he has detected a trend in his team, which also outscored Monument Mountain 2-0 in a 3-2 win over the Spartans in Williamstown back on Sept. 18.
“It seems like it’s been a pattern for us,” Ostheimer said. “We kind of see what the other team has got. We spar with them for a half sometimes, and today was no different. We play an even game, and then we figure things out at half-time.
“I don’t think it was anything inspirational said or anything. We just realized that we’ve got to play as a team. We’ve got to play more aggressively. We were kind of on our heels, and let’s make it happen.”
Less than two minutes after Politis broke the seal on the game, Tanley Drake took a feed from Mila Marcisz and knocked a ball inside the near post to make it 2-0.
In the 58th minute, Drake scored again, this time knocking the ball with her torso into the net to convert Lopez’ second assist of the game to officially open the floodgates.
Lopez put her name in the scoring column with 15:35 left to play when she took the ball from a Spartan defender inside the 18 and scored an unassisted goal to cap the scoring.
Although Mount Greylock had a little more possession time than the Spartans in the first half, one of the best chances of the first 40 minutes came just before half-time when Monument Mountain’s Mercedes Raifstanger got behind Mount Greylock keeper Olivia Eakin with the ball deep on the left wing. In a harbinger of future frustration for the Spartans, Raifstanger’s try from a tough angle went just wide of the far post for a Mount Greylock goal kick.
Eakin was starting for Mai O’Connor, who hurt her arm against Drury and did play in the field on Friday but was not available to play goal.
While she did not see nearly as many shots as the Spartans’ Alex Tenney (eight saves), Eakin was tested a couple of times in the final five minutes of play and back in the 16th minute of the then scoreless contest, she came well off her line to deny hard charging Iris Firth, who came into the game with 23 goals for the Spartans (10-2).
Ostheimer was happy to see the ninth-grade keeper step up and earn the clean sheet in her first varsity start.
“And that’s against a good team that has scored a lot of goals this season,” he said. “I thought she was calm, poised, having fun, coming out of the net, eating up a lot of through balls.
“She’s got great instincts. That shows a lot. I think Mai O’Connor, the two of them working together, she’s really helped her a lot. And you can see it today.”
Monument Mountain, which won five straight games after its last loss to Mount Greylock, will look to bounce back again starting Wednesday when it goes to Hoosac Valley.
The Mounties get a couple of days off to recover and get ready for Monday’s road test at Longmeadow, the top-ranked team in the commonwealth in Division 2.


It took 73 minutes, but the Spartans finally broke through to get the game’s only goal and their second 1-0 win of the season against the Generals.
Erving Henderson started the game winning play when he took a diagonal pass from Mac Zdziarski in the middle of the offensive zone, beat a defender and made a run down the left wing and took a shot that was saved by a diving John Mullen for Pittsfield.
Blanchard was in the right place, right time, charging on the right wing to knock home the rebound and send the Spartans to their seventh win of the season.
“We actually played really well from wide areas today,” Monument Mountain coach Matt Naventi said. “We got a lot of good services in, good one-on-one opportunities. And it just didn’t click in the first half. We couldn’t find that one missing connecting pass to stick it in the back of the net.
“But it worked out great, and birthday boy got his goal, so I’m happy for Christian because he’s missed a couple in the previous couple of games. This was an important one for us, so I’m glad he was able to get on the other end of it.”
The tone for the game was set in the first three minutes with each team generating a corner kick opportunity and each keeper – Mullen and Monument Mountain’s Marko Kononenko – catching the entry to deny the scoring opportunity.
Each team generated plenty of chances in the first 40 minutes. The two best came in the closing seconds of the half.
Pittsfield’s Gustavo Oliveira fired a shot under duress from the middle of the 18 that a diving Kononenko was able to punch out to the wing. The Generals were able to corral the rebound and cross the ball to Daniel Varon, who took a shot that Kononenko stopped for his second save in five seconds and seventh of the first half.
“He was phenomenal, especially in the first half,” Naventi said of Kononenko, who joined the Spartans for his senior season this fall. “He saved us on a few different occasions, and then he had to be called on a couple of times in key moments in the second half as well.
“That’s a luxury that we certainly have this year. We’ve got a solid defensive group around him, too, but we’re young and inexperienced. All five guys in the back – Marko included – are new this year, so there’s a little bit of a learning curve. But when you have that level of ability, you can keep the team in games no matter what. And he’s been able to do that every time.”
Mullen matched Kononenko save-for-save most of the night, coming up with a huge stop early in the second half when he leapt up to deny Owen Heck’s try from 30 yards out and controlled the rebound to get a punt to send Pittsfield back up the field.
Generals coach Neill Brandon agreed there was not much that Mullen could do on the game-winner.
“Both keepers were great tonight,” Brandon said. “Theirs kept a clean sheet and got the balls high and wide that he had to. John [Mullen] was the first one coming off the field saying, ‘I could have gotten a stronger wrist on it. I could have just tipped it wide.’
“And that’s what I love about him. He’s very reflective about his game. He’s very, I think, honest. He’s not critical of himself. He strikes the balance really well. And for a freshman, it’s even more impressive.”
Brandon was disappointed not to get out of Great Barrington with a point but not at all discouraged by the way his team battled against one of the top teams in its division.
“It was a great performance,” he said. “We haven’t shown 80 minutes of a fight like that in a lot of our games. And we had guys coming off the field, accurately, saying that’s the best we played all season. Just not on the right side of the score line.
“That’s the sport. It’s why we love it. It’s why we keep coming back.”
Pittsfield (4-6-1) will look to come back on Monday under the lights at BCC against another Churchill Division foe, Mount Greylock.
Monument Mountain (7-2-2) also stays in league play on Monday when it visits Pope Francis.


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