Division 3 girls soccer: South Hadley blanks Southwick, 3-0, to reach championship game

Thursday, November 09, 2017

CHICOPEE — Sarah Fudger accomplished two feats for the first time Thursday night at Szot Park.

The South Hadley girls soccer senior scored directly off a corner kick from the right side of goal, and she helped book a spot in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament final for the Tigers.

She lined up the corner trying to pass in the 63rd minute. Southwick keeper Hannah Gerrish leapt to control the ball, but it slipped out of her grasp and across the line for South Hadley’s third goal of the night.

“That side, I’d never thought I’d be able to do that,” Fudger said. “I’m proud of that.”

The scoreline held, and No. 1 South Hadley beat No. 5 Southwick, 3-0, to advance to the championship game. The Tigers (18-1-1) will face No. 3 Monument Mountain (13-3-5) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Westfield State.

Southwick (11-5-5) knocked South Hadley out of the past two postseasons, so the Tigers brought an extra edge to the start of Thursday’s semifinal. They pressed defensively and kept players forward to increase their offensive pressure.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” South Hadley coach Rick Marjanski said. “We like to pressure.”

The pressure created chances at first, and Lindsay Marjanski finished one in the 25th minute. She received a diagonal through pass from Madeline Doolittle and raced ahead of two Southwick defenders in the penalty box. She took one touch to push it out in front of her then slid the ball under Southwick’s diving keeper for a 1-0 lead.

“I felt like we were in that end for a long time, and I just felt like (the goal) was going to come,” South Hadley junior Alexa Blaney said. “It was a nice reliever.”

Blaney gave the Tigers even more breathing room in the last two minutes of the first half. She took a pass from Taeghan Gawron past Southwick’s back line and slipped lining up the shot. Southwick’s keeper couldn’t corral the ball, and Blaney had enough time to get back up, locate the ball and slot it into the goal.

“When you get that second goal, it gives you a little bit of a cushion,” Rick Marjanski said. “We talked at halftime and we thought the next goal was the important one, as well.”

Fudger delivered the next goal, and the Tigers secured a spot in the final with a clean sheet.

Southwick didn’t put a shot on goal until the 53rd minute because the Tigers’ defense snuffed out the Rams’ long passes and cleared the ball when it moved into more dangerous areas.

“(The defense) has been a process the entire season. This game, in particular, there was a lot more talking and communication,” Fudger said. “It was that communication that held us together.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.