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Division 3 girls soccer: South Hadley claims first WMass championship

  • South Hadley's Sydney Mercier, center, heads the ball, Saturday, Nov. 11, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Teagan Gawron, left, and Monument's Masho McAlister battle for control over the ball, Saturday, Nov. 11, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Anna Moriarty, left, boots the ball into Monument's Aubrey Blanchard, right, Saturday, Nov. 11, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Lindsay Marjanski, backrgound, celebrates when Alexa Blaney's kick goes over the goal line before Monument's goalkeeper, Helen Pajeski was able to capture it, Saturday, Nov. 11, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley players celebrate their first goal against Monument Mountain, Saturday during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship game at Westfield State. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley’ss Lindsay Marjanski, left, and Olivia Blaney, right, battle Monument’s Aubrey Blanchard for control over the ball, Saturday at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Reese Carey, left, and Alexa Blaney, center right, hug each other after winning the Western Massachusetts Division III Championship against Monument, Saturday, Nov. 11 at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • The South Hadley girls soccer team celebrates after winning the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship against Monument, Saturday at Westfield State. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Anna Moriarty, left, battles for control over the ball with Monument's Zufan Bazzano during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship game, Saturday, Nov. 11, at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley's Alexa Blaney, center with blanket, and teammates rush onto the field to celebrate after winning the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship against Monument, Saturday, Nov. 11 at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • South Hadley fans wear blankets and hold signs saying “Go Tigers” while watching the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship game at Westfield State University, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Lindsay Marjanski, center, attempts to handle the ball during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Championship game, Saturday, Nov. 11, at Westfield State University. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • The South Hadley girls soccer team celebrates with its Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship, Saturday at Westfield State. It’s the first title in program history. ADAM HARGRAVES



@Hargraves24
Saturday, November 11, 2017

WESTFIELD — South Hadley goalkeeper Bridget Sears did not know the game was over.

Sears was in the midst of defending a second round of penalty kicks against Monument Mountain in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament finals at Westfield State on Saturday.

Sears thought the round continued. It was sudden death.

After Emily Wojnarowski’s make to start the second round, Sears needed just one stop to give South Hadley its first title. After a quick move to her left, she crouched to the turf and stopped the shot.

The celebration then began for the Tigers, who beat Monument 2-1 on penalty kicks after finishing regulation and two overtime sessions tied 1-1.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” Sears said. “I thought we had to go through all five again, but my team came running up to me.”

The Tigers had never won a title before this, according to coach Rick Marjanski. He had a feeling Sears would come up big for the team.

“I told the team to get ready to storm the field,” Marjanski said. “She does it every day in practice. We have one of the best offenses and they fire away at her.”

The Tigers (19-1-1) move on to the state tournament, where they will play Central champion Sutton (19-1-2) at Assabet High School at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“I am so happy for the girls,” Marjanski said. “The amount of work they put in and the bonding they did as a group. They were flying under the radar the whole year. Nobody was really talking about them. It was an honor for them to win Western Mass.”

Sears replaced longtime starter Sophie Gatzounas, who graduated as one the best athletes to come out of South Hadley. Sears was a little frustrated with herself, as she couldn’t get the stop she wanted in the first round of penalty kicks.

“Sophie was amazing,” Sears said. “I can never live up to her but I am really happy with how I played.”

After missing most of the season with an injury, Wojnarowski calmly scored the first penalty kick to set up Sears’ save.

“I’ve been slowly recovering to play to my full potential,” Wojnarowski said. “Honestly it was nerve-racking because I am the type of person to kick it straight over. My captain told me I don’t need power and to just pick a spot.”

A relatively even first half saw the teams trade goals with Monument getting on the board first. Fiona Horan’s strike from about 20 yards out soared into the left corner past Sears. The No. 3 Spartans (13-3-5) took the lead in the 29th minute.

The Tigers tied the game with 18:37 left in the half when Alexa Blaney drilled a direct kick just through the fingertips of Monument keeper Helen Pajeski.

In the final seconds of regulation, the Tigers had a potential game-winning goal disallowed for goalie interference.

“I am so happy,” Blaney said. “We are a very young team that works so well together. We were ready to play and we knew what he had to do.”

Monument controlled most of the possession in the first overtime. Neither team gained an advantage in the second overtime.

Senior captain Mikhaila Edge led the defense, which was steady the whole game for South Hadley.