Lenox Girls Advance to Western Mass Final
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- The No. 2 Lenox girls soccer team apparently likes to take the long road to the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Championship, as they have proved in their last two tournament games.
After holding a 2-1 lead in Tuesday's semifinal through 77 minutes of play against No. 3 Gateway, the Millionaires allowed the Gators the equalizer with 2 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in regulation.
"I keep joking that they're trying to give me a heart attack, but now I'm thinking they might actually seriously be trying to," Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuck said. "But, hey; easy, hard, it doesn't matter, a wins a win."
Through two 10-minute overtimes, neither team was able to end it; although for Lenox, in the first overtime period senior Alessandra Arace almost ended it at the buzzer as she broke away down the right wing with 10 seconds to go; but the shot went about 2 feet left of the goal.
"With Alessandra, she's our only senior and a lot of the girls really look up to her and look to her to be that spark for us," Zinchuck said. "With such a young team we have a lot of freshman on the team; there were a lot of nerves out there and for most of them this is really the first high intensity situation they've been in, so I think seeing her take control and give us a look did definitely help with the confidence."
It was determined in penalty kicks, which Lenox goalie Shannon Meisberger stated has been haunting her for the past week. Luckily for her, her nightmares no longer need a dream catcher as the team walked away "on cloud nine" after taking it, 3-2, over the Gators from the PK line.
"I was just thinking how about how much my team meant to me and I wasn't going to lose for them because they weren't going to lose for me, so I was just focusing on doing well and focusing on the ball," Meisberger said. "I've been having a nightmare about penalty kicks for about the last two weeks, so it was really intense and I was just hoping I would do well."
After three rounds, it was tied at two with goals from Lenox's Jaclynn Hathaway and Arace and Gateway's Sam Belardo and Joanna Arkoette.
Both second round shooters for each team sent the ball high over the net.
In the fourth round, Juliana Dickenson shot high for Gateway; Shelby Lynch hit the net for Lenox to put the score at 3-2; where it stayed after Hannah Coffey overshot for the Gators; securing the 3-2 victory for the Millionaires and a trip to the finals.
In regulation, Lenox took an early lead 3 minutes into the game; Nicole Gamberoni sent a pass to Abby Schilling who lofted a shot from the left of the box over goalie Becca Herman's (6 saves) head.
Gateway responded 10 minutes later after Meisberger (18 saves) deflected a Taryn Kubik shot. Jess VanHeynigen got the rebound and finished it to tie it at 1.
But, Lenox answered 10 seconds later with a goal from Arace, Tova Brown on the assist.
"She's [Arace] stepped up huge in so many games, but I think the way we responded to that goal says a lot about how are team has progressed this year," Zinchuck said. "Early in the season when we had a let down like that and give up a goal typically I was seeing some heads down and as you saw tonight we were right back out there and did what we needed to; that really says a lot about the team as well too."
The Gators had several opportunities to get the equalizer before half, but couldn't capitalize.
Belardo kept her team alive in the final two minutes after Kubik slotted the ball past Meisberger who came off her line; tying it at two and sending it to overtime.
But the Gators' luck didn't last long as Herman went down in the box after coming out for a save in the eighteen; replacing her in net for the remainder of the game was eighth grade backup goalie Donna Viel, who finished with three saves.
Lenox will take a trip to the Division 4 Western Mass Finals this weekend; their opponent will be determined Wednesday evening at the conclusion of No. 1 Monson versus No. 4 Lee.