×

Division 3 boys soccer: Southwick ousts two-time champ Frontier, 1-0

  • Frontier Regional's Connor Bagdon, center, controls the ball under pressure from Southwick's Austin Davis, left, and Nicholas Doyle Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Frontier Regional's Zach Hamilton, center, goes after the ball under pressure from Southwick's Nicholas Doyle, left, and Mason Kowal Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Frontier Regional's Zach Hamilton, center, tries the move the ball past Southwick's Nicholas Doyle, left, and Samuel Willis Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Frontier Regional's Sam Felton-Emrick controls the ball under pressure from Southwick Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Frontier Regional's Sam Felton-Emrick, right, moves the ball under pressure from Southwick's Nicholas Doyle Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Frontier Regional's Zach Hamilton, center, and Connor Bagdon, right, look to control the ball under pressure from Southwick's Nicholas Doyle, left, and Austin Davis Nov. 9, 2017 during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 boys soccer semifinal game at Szot Park in Chicopee. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@kylegrbwsk
Thursday, November 09, 2017

CHICOPEE — A moment of brilliance ended the Frontier Regional boys soccer team’s run atop Division 3 in western Massachusetts.

Second-seeded Southwick lined up for a corner from the right side of the north goal at Szot Park in the 63rd minute Thursday. The Rams sent the ball to the middle of the penalty box where it ricocheted off a Frontier defender and to Nick Brown. He settled it with his right foot, then when the ball bounced he hit it into the upper-left corner past a diving Peter Bronke.

“That’s the thing I love about soccer, it’s much more an art than a science,” Frontier coach Dale Totman said. “Amazing goal, really. I don’t think there was anything we could have done defensively to stop that.”

That goal held up, and Southwick won 1-0 to advance to the title game. The Rams (14-3-1) will face top-seeded Belchertown (16-2-2) at 2:15 p.m. Sunday at Westfield State.

“When two even teams are playing it’s just a little thing here, little thing there, a moment of brilliance, and that’s the game,” Totman said.

With the way both teams defended, it was going to take a strike of that quality to find the net. Frontier (12-3-4), the third seed, and Southwick played an even, defensively focused first half to a scoreless draw.

The Red Hawks possessed the ball but struggled to connect passes in the final third, especially in Southwick’s penalty box.

“I felt like it was a strange game, the energy was kind of weird,” Totman said. “The final ball, we were a little bit off on.”

Frontier’s best chances came from set pieces. The Red Hawks picked up a corner in the first two minutes of the game and manufactured a chance off a throw-in before the halftime buzzer sounded.

The Red Hawks redoubled their effort after Southwick scored. Totman called a timeout and reminded the team that it came back from a goal down in last year’s semifinals.

“We could have done the same thing,” Frontier senior Ethan LaFleur said.

Frontier earned a free kick two minutes after the Rams scored. Alex Gheorghita lofted the ball into the penalty area, but no Frontier attacker could put his laces through a quality shot after a scramble in front of the net.

“I always look for either Connor (Bagdon) or (Doug Hanieski’s) head to lay it down and someone finish it or them flick it on,” Gheorghita said.

In the 70th minute, Gheorghita went for the goal himself. He struck a hard, long shot that bounced off Southwick keeper Kyle Demaio. LaFleur followed the shot and took a chance on the rebound, but he hit it right back at Demaio, who hugged the ball tight to his chest on the ground.

“Just tip your hat,” LaFleur said.

Frontier kept the ball in Southwick’s half for nearly the entire last 10 minutes but sent shots wide left, wide right and right at Demaio.

“I thought we gave everything,” Totman said.

The loss marked Frontier’s first setback in the postseason since a 3-0 loss to Belchertown in the 2014 semifinals. Since then, they’ve won eight straight Western Mass. tournament games, including two penalty shootouts. The Red Hawks have claimed two sectional titles, the first soccer titles in Franklin County history. They lost two state semifinals 1-0.

Thursday was the final game for Frontier’s six seniors: Zach Hamilton, Lafleur, Ben Arnold, Gheorghita, Tyler Mayrand and Noah Graves.

“I definitely have some fond memories that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” LaFleur said. “I’m just sad to see it end.”

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