WESTFIELD, Mass. -- The South Hadley girls soccer team Saturday withstood withering pressure from the Monument Mountain Spartans in the second half and overtime before surviving to advance on penalty kicks in the championship game of the western Massachusetts Division 3 tournament.
Third-seeded Monument Mountain (13-4-5) generated numerous chances to break a 1-1 half-time tie in regulation, but after 100 minutes, that is where the score stood, sending the contest to a penalty kick shootout to decide who will carry the Western Mass banner into this week's state semi-finals.
Even the standard five rounds of PKs were not enough to decide the matter, but in round six, South Hadley's Bridget Spears made a save to give her team a 5-4 shootout win.
The Spartans went home disappointed after going 9-1-1 down the stretch, including a thrilling overtime win in the sectional semi-finals.
"Being part of a team and being together all season long, you're grieving for the loss of your family at the end of the season," Monument Mountain coach Jessica Platt said of her team's reaction to the result.
"You give them the opportunity to do that and just to be proud of themselves and think about the great season they put in. I think the culmination of all their great moments is not at the forefront of their mind. But I think it will be for them.
"They're a special group of kids."
Monument Mountain Saturday at Westfield State scored the game's first goal, as it did in all four of its Western Mass games.
This time around, it was Fiona Horan with a successful try from 25 yards out to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
Midway through the first half, the top-seeded Tigers (19-1-1) got the equalizer when Alexa Blaney scored on a free kick from 30 yards out that tipped off the hands of keeper Helen Pajeski and into the goal.
Pajeski did not allow anything else past her for the remaining 79 minutes of action and finished with 11 saves.
At the other end of the field, Sears was even more busy, especially in the second half.
Over the final 19 minutes of regulation, to be more specific, the Spartans had three quality shots on goal and a try that rang off the crossbar with about five minutes left.
"I think we just got a little bit better read on the way South Hadley played," Platt said of the Spartans' second-half surge. "We found the gaps and matched their high pressure. We were really successful and had a lot of opportunities. Just kept plugging away.
"It didn't go our way."