Hopkins boys soccer shows experience in win over South Hadley

  • John Earle, left, of Hopkins Academy, and Ryan Gage, of South Hadley, jump to head the ball, Tuesday in South Hadley. Hopkins won 3-1. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Uan O’Brien, right, of Hopkins Academy, head the ball beside Collin Mitchell, of South Hadley, Tuesday in South Hadley. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hopkins Academy goalie Jack Feltovic, right, makes a save against South Hadley, Tuesday in South Hadley. Mike Curran backs up the play. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Declan Joy, left, of South Hadley, and Nathan Kelley, of Hopkins Academy, try to win the ball, Tuesday in South Hadley. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SOUTH HADLEY — South Hadley displayed its boys soccer talent in the first half.

The Tigers’ youth, and Hopkins Academy’s experience, unfurled in the second.

Hopkins scored three goals after halftime to prevail 3-1 Monday.

Freshman Max McCurdy put the Tigers ahead 1-0 in the 28th minute with his first varsity goal. Fellow freshman Ryan Gage was standing in front of goal and deflected a cross backwards. McCurdy volleyed the ball before it hit the turf and found the top-left corner.

“There’s some fantastic youth on this team,” South Hadley coach Eric Castonguay said.

The Tigers (2-1, 0-1 Schmid) held possession and applied steady pressure throughout the first half.

Hopkins (3-1, 2-0 Schmid) had two chances in the closing minutes of the first half. One went over the bar after quick passing in the 18-yard box, and another skirted just left of goal after similar ball and player movement.

“It showed hope for the second half,” Hopkins senior Ben Anderson said.

The Golden Hawks capitalized quickly. Freshman Gregory Kucinski stayed composed in front of the goal after a pass from Gage Spanknebel and equalized two minutes into the second half.

“When it came from him, it got us a little more pumped up,” Hopkins coach CJ Holt said. “He’s been working for us so hard this year.”

The Tigers didn’t take that counterpunch as well as they’d have liked. Hopkins tied the game six minutes later.

“They got that quick goal, and we went to panic mode,” Castonguay said. “I think that showed a little bit of our inexperience.”

Kucinski carried the ball down the right wing and centered a pass. South Hadley’s defenders cleared it but only as far as Anderson. He shot it low on the left side of the net for a 2-1 lead in the 48th minute.

“I had a little open space, so I just tried to slot it in the side of the net, pretty safe,” Anderson said.

South Hadley tried to respond just as quickly. In the 50th minute, Liam Joy dribbled the ball at the top of Hopkins’ penalty box then slid a through ball to Gage. He turned on it but couldn’t find enough power to beat the goalkeeper.

Hopkins put the game out of reach in the 55th minute. Uan O’Brien scored from Spanknebel to give the Golden Hawks a two-goal cushion.

“It’s pretty uneasy feeling to have a one-goal lead because it’s so easy to lose it,” Anderson said. “It was important for us to get that two-goal lead and cap off the win.”

The Golden Hawks went for more. Anderson hit the crossbar with 20 minutes left, and another shot glanced off the right post in the last 10 minutes.

“We were on cruise control after (the second goal),” Holt said.