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Hopkins, Gateway boys soccer tie in McGrath South battle 

  • Evan Delaney of Hopkins Academy, top right, heads the ball beside Jake Merritt of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins. Looking on are Gateway players Ryan Fisk, from left, Curtis Dowers, Denver Yost and Justin Edinger.JERREY ROBERTS

    Evan Delaney of Hopkins Academy, top right, heads the ball beside Jake Merritt of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins. Looking on are Gateway players Ryan Fisk, from left, Curtis Dowers, Denver Yost and Justin Edinger.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Curtis Dowers of Gateway Regional, left, and Greg Hannum of Hopkins Academy vie for the ball Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Curtis Dowers of Gateway Regional, left, and Greg Hannum of Hopkins Academy vie for the ball Thursday at Hopkins.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Paul Delamy of Hopkins Academy, right, moves the ball against Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Paul Delamy of Hopkins Academy, right, moves the ball against Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Randy Garfield of Gateway Regional, front left, passes away from Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Randy Garfield of Gateway Regional, front left, passes away from Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy Thursday at Hopkins.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy, right, and Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional jump to head the ball Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy, right, and Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional jump to head the ball Thursday at Hopkins.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evan Delaney of Hopkins Academy, top right, heads the ball beside Jake Merritt of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins. Looking on are Gateway players Ryan Fisk, from left, Curtis Dowers, Denver Yost and Justin Edinger.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Curtis Dowers of Gateway Regional, left, and Greg Hannum of Hopkins Academy vie for the ball Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Paul Delamy of Hopkins Academy, right, moves the ball against Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Randy Garfield of Gateway Regional, front left, passes away from Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tyler Szymkowicz of Hopkins Academy, right, and Zach Mackechnie of Gateway Regional jump to head the ball Thursday at Hopkins.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

HADLEY — Despite not coming away with a victory, the bus ride to Hadley on Thursday afternoon was well worth it for the Gateway Regional boys soccer team.

The Gators were the first team all season to shut out league rival Hopkins Academy, and the 0-0 draw clinched a Western Massachusetts Division 3 postseason berth.

“You come to win the game, but to be able to gain a point and clinch a spot against a quality opponent on their home field, that’s pretty rewarding,” Gateway coach Tim Gamble said. “We may see each other again, and we’ve proven we can play with the best in Division 3.”

Hopkins star forward Tyler Szymkowicz will have to wait at least one more game to reach the career 100-point milestone. Despite a number of touches, especially early in the game, the senior was held off the board to remain at 98 points.

“There’s really no need to worry about the points, because it’s going to come at some point soon,” Hopkins coach Justin Campbell said. “Tyler would be fine if we won and he didn’t figure in any goal. He’s the consummate team player and our offensive engine. All our opponents know that.”

The Golden Hawks (11-1-3, 5-0-1 McGrath South) play next at Smith Academy at 3:30 Monday afternoon.

Szymkowicz and Paul Delamy led a Golden Hawks offensive attack that produced nine shots on goal and 11 corner kicks.

Gateway goalie Mike Arel was up to the challenge on all nine shots, and had plenty of help in front of him as the Gators, who recorded their fourth straight shutout, played strong help defense and blocked a number of shot or pass attempts.

“We played a little different defense than we’re used to playing to try to take away their key players,” senior sweeper Ryan Fisk said. “We’ve been waiting for this game since the first time we played them. It feels great to keep them without a goal.”

Fisk, Zach Mackechnie, Connor Doyle, Randy Garfield and midfielder Justin Edinger patrolled the space inside the 18 for the Gators (7-3-4, 1-2-2).

That unit had to do its hardest work in the early stages, as the Golden Hawks came out strong and earned four corners before Gamble had to use his first-half timeout within the first 10 minutes.

“That’s the quickest timeout I’ve taken in a game since I coached basketball,” Gamble joked. “But we played much better after that, and my kids really backed me up in this one. Hopkins has a lot of guys who can hurt you, but our defensive structure was pretty strong.”

Szymkowicz put a number of balls toward the net, but only got one on the goal. Off a corner by Brennan Mitrolka, he got off a header but Arel stood his ground to make the save. With just over five minutes left in regulation, Szymkowicz floated a shot from the right side that just went over the crossbar and plopped on top of the goal.

Then with roughly two minutes to go, Delamy ripped a shot just high after Hopkins took its 10th corner.

“Gateway played hard, they played well positionally, which is to be expected at this time of year,” Campbell said. “They also obviously had motive to get a point and clinch. We had our opportunities, but that’s soccer. Sometimes shots go in, other times they don’t. This game was tournament-style soccer, and we’ll learn from it and rebound.”

After having to defend their end of the field for most of the first half, the Gators evened out the flow of play after halftime. Curtis Dowers and Josh Baillargeon nearly gave Gateway a lead with open looks, but their shots were high and wide left.

Ben Pitta made four saves to earn the shutout for Hopkins.

“We were able to stretch the field a little bit,” Gamble said. “We didn’t have a ton of opportunities, but some quality ones. As long as I’ve been here, Gateway’s always been about defense first. If you don’t give up many, you’ll always have an opportunity to win.”

Earlier in the season Hopkins won 1-0 on Sept. 11 in Huntington.

“This really keeps our confidence at a high level and hypes us up as we look toward the tournament and possibly playing them again,” Fisk said. “Usually we build from the defense up. When our defense plays well and moves the ball up, that gets our offense going. We’ll have to find a way to score at least one playing these top teams.”

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

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