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Belchertown, East Longmeadow girls soccer showdown ends in 1-1 draw

EAST LONGMEADOW — With a tournament atmosphere and championship-caliber play, Tuesday night’s girls soccer showdown between Belchertown and East Longmeadow clearly displayed the two best teams in western Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, in the teams’ only possible matchup of the season, there was no definitive answer as to which is the top squad in a 0-0 draw.

“There was a lot of hype going into this game and talk about who the best team is,” Belchertown coach Chris Mogavero said. “It’s great for the girls to play in a game like this, which had very little meaning to it. Really it’s just preparing us for tournament games with bigger, faster teams.”

The defending Division 2 sectional champion Orioles (6-0-1) outshot and had more scoring chances than the reigning D1 champion Spartans (8-0-1), but the defenses held up. Coming into the contest, each team had allowed just three tallies.

“This game was extremely exciting, and our team was really pumped up,” junior midfielder Breanne Moreau said. “We spent a lot of time getting ready for this one. We were nervous, but we knew we’d do well because we train hard for games like this.”

The Orioles didn’t seem satisfied with the prospect of a tie and pushed the play over the final 25 minutes. They earned four of their seven corner kicks toward the end of regulation.

With about 21 minutes to play, the second of consecutive corners led to a great opportunity for Jillian Cavanaugh, who headed the ball just high. Five minutes later, Abbey Norden put a free kick from 28 yards into the box, where Jackie Soucia had an open header that she put wide.

“I would have thought we could have gotten one in, but we weren’t without our chances,” Mogavero said. “Honestly, we’re looking for a 5-4 game, because we don’t thing any team can outscore us. But in a 0-0 game, either team can lose. So the result was a little surprising, but both teams seemed a little nervous with all the hype.”

Late in regulation, Breanne Moreau jumpstarted the attack from the midfield. Mogavero moved twin sister Brittany Moreau up front for the second half, which helped spark some offense for Belchertown.

“We tried a lot of direct passes, looking to play through balls, but their defense kept dropping back and taking that away,” Breanne Moreau said. “In those cases, you need to play more together in an area and try to get through with shorter passes. Their defense is really strong, but we thought we’d get one there late in the game. Putting Brittany up front helps us as we try to find each other for opportunities. Both of us are used to playing in a bunch of different positions.”

The Spartans’ trap, combined with Belchertown being anxious for a goal led to double-digit offsides calls.

With their aggresive game plan looking to push the tempo, the Orioles relied heavily on their quartet of backs to break up any Spartans rushes. Norden, Jillian Lund, Emily Silva and Christina Delude all played a solid game to limit the work of keeper Sarah LaClair (two saves). Belchertown allowed East Longmeadow only a single corner kick.

“We were able to get numbers back at all times, and we did a nice job limiting Danielle White, their best player,” Mogavero said. “We also pressured them more than most teams probably do, and that might have thrown them off a bit.”

Neither LaClair nor East Longmeadow goalie Anne Stack (four) had a ton of work, but both did a nice job handling a slick ball. Each had to intercept a corner kick in the second half to thwart a potential scoring chance.

“I thought Stack cut off our angles well,” said Mogavero. “There were a couple times when if she came out a bit, we might have put it behind her. We beat her on some shots, but the angle was just off.”

The Spartans (8-0-1) controlled the ball early in the second half. Their best look of the game came with 37:40 remaining, as Ashley Horrigan dribbled along the right end line and found Victoria Dutille in the middle. However, Dutille pushed the shot wide of the near post.

The Orioles dominated the early going, before East Longmeadow got its footing and changed the momentum roughly midway through the half.

Both teams kept their hopes alive for an undefeated season.

“Our team has a ton of heart, and when we all try our best, we can play with and beat anybody,” Moreau said. “If we want it, we’ll push hard enough to get a win.”

Mogavero said, “We learned we can compete with anybody, and also that our defense, when put to the test, responds to the challenge. We really didn’t give them any good looks on the net. Sometimes we’ll get a little lax on defense, but we stepped up on that end. We’re just as good defensively as we are offensively, and can shut people down in a tight contest. But we do need to work on trying to find a goal in a game where the defense packs it in on us. That gives us something to improve on.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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