Molly Knight's Goal Lifts Lenox into Western Mass Final
CHICOPEE, Mass. -- Scoring chances were few and far between for the Lenox girls soccer team on Wednesday night.
So when Molly Knight got a pass from Claire Lynch more than 20 yards from the goal in the 25th minute, she knew it was a big spot.
"It was definitely, like, that was our one chance to put in a goal and get our momentum going," Knight said.
The sophomore delivered with a boot that glanced off the fingertips of a diving Gateway keeper and inside the near post for a 1-0 lead.
Lenox keeper Sophie Patella and the Millionaires' defense made that lead stand up for a 1-0 win and a berth in Sunday's Western Massachusetts Division 4 Championship game.
Third-seeded Lenox (10-8-1) will face top-seed Granby (14-4-2) at Springfield Central High School on Sunday at noon. In the second half of Wednesday's semi-final double-header at Chicopee Comp, Granby beat No. 4 Ware, 2-0.
"It was just a really good layoff shot by Claire Lynch," Knight said of the game-winner. "I'm really used to knocking it over, so I just stayed over the ball and just hoped it would go in.
"I'm used to taking corner kicks and stuff and having those big balls. And playing with my sister [senior Taylor Knight] is really fun because we switch off doing kicks. It's fun playing next to her, and that shot from that range is what we look for."
On Sunday, the Millionaires will look for their first sectional title since 2012, the second of back-to-back Western Mass titles at Lenox. Granby will play for its fifth straight Western Mass title; it won Division 3 in 2015 and '16 before moving to D4 and winning the last two.
On Wednesday, Lenox picked up its third 1-0 win of the season, something it did for the first time way back on Sept. 3 in the season opener against Pittsfield.
"I think we did a good job of moving the ball around," Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuk said. "We were just missing that last final pass to get in behind or get a good shot look off. We had a few opportunities where were inside the 18, the ball is bouncing around and and couldn't quite find that look.
"But we capitalized on one, and sometimes that is all you need. If you can stay defensively sound and hold the fort, so to speak, capitalize on one, and that can do it sometimes."
Especially when players like Molly Knight hustle back after scoring the go-ahead goal and help deny an opportunity on a rebound -- like she did just four minutes after her tally on Wednesday night.
"They say it's that few minutes after you score a goal that you're real vulnerable because you start to feel like, 'OK, we're doing good,' and the other team is hungry," Zinchuk said. "Molly had a heck of a game. I think Sophie played out of her mind, too.
"It feels really good having her back in the net after dealing with most of the season without her. I think you saw her make a few huge plays coming out and cutting down angles."
The sophomore keeper was hurt in the fifth game of the season at Mount Greylock and returned in last week's post-season opener. Counting that quarter-final shortened to 40 minutes due to field conditions, Patella has five shutouts in seven starts this fall.
On Wednesday, she made nine saves for Lenox, which was outshot by a margin of 9-5.
But she made some of her biggest plays coming off her line to stop crosses or, as she did in the 74th minute, deny a Gateway forward making a strong run on the left-wing side of the 18.
"The one that I thought she did an amazing job playing was that one in the first half, where she came out and she knew she was running out of space right toward the top of the 18," Zinchuk said. "So she was smart enough to know that it was going to be close, so she slid and got it with her legs and her feet instead of trying to get it with her hands.
"She was really solid for us all night, obviously."