Overtime win pushes Amherst to Division 1 soccer final
Brandon Vazquez, right, and the Amherst Regional boys soccer team beat West Springfield Friday 1-0 to advance to the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament championship game. Purchase photo reprints »
HOLYOKE — For the second time in three years, the Amherst Regional boys soccer team will be playing in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament finals.
Eric Gooden’s touch kicked off the back of a defender’s foot and into the goal with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in overtime for a 1-0 win over West Springfield in the semifinals at Holyoke High Friday.
“We were in the box a ton of times,” said Gooden, whose team had four shots on goal, but spent much of the game deep in West Side territory. “We just couldn’t get one until overtime. It was ironic that it came on an own goal.”
The No. 2 Hurricanes (10-2-5) will take on No. 1 Ludlow (14-1-5) for the title on Sunday at Westfield State at 4:30.
“It means so much” to be back in the finals, said senior Cody Baglow, whose team fell to Ludlow in the semis last year. “Thinking about not being able to go for that title again would have been bad. I can’t wait. It should be great.”
The two-time defending state champion Lions defeated Chicopee 2-1 in overtime in the other semifinal Friday and has knocked Amherst out of the postseason in each of the past two years and three of the last four.
The Hurricanes have reached the WMass finals twice — 2008 and 2010 — and fell to Ludlow both times, including in PKs in 2010.
“We play them hard every year,” Baglow said. “We need to step up our game a lot more than this game. They are going to pressure harder. We won’t have as much space as we did today, but overall, we’ve played pretty well against them. We just need to step up our game more.”
Friday’s golden goal came after 88 minutes, 14 seconds of play. Adrian Haughton worked hard through a defender for possession and slipped a pass to Gooden to his right.
Gooden took a touch to settle the ball, which skipped a bit to his left and off the back foot of a backpeddling defender and slipped just inside the left post.
“Luckily it went off one of the defenders and in,” Gooden said. “I was a little shocked to get (the ball) in the first place, and I was hoping to get an angle and take a shot to win the game. I got my foot on it and it deflected off the defender.”
Curtis Barnes finished with three saves for the team’s fifth shutout of the season. The Hurricanes have four shutouts in their last five games and have outscored their opponents 11-1 over that time. Amherst extended its unbeaten streak to seven games dating back to a 2-1 loss to Ludlow at home on Oct. 9. Since then, they’ve tied the Lions 0-0 in Ludlow on Oct. 15.
No. 3 West Springfield ended their season 10-3-7.
On Friday, Amherst dominated play throughout the first half and saw three solid scoring chances came off Baglow flip throws deep in Terrier territory.
Baglow’s first toss came in the sixth minute. It hit the crossbar, but the rebound was friendly for West Side, which cleared the rebound. His next two throws came in the 20th and 31st minute. Both went into the box, but neither resulted in a shot on goal.
“The first half, we really pressured hard up top and throughout the midfield,” Baglow said. “We kept it on their end for the whole first half. I definitely thought one was going to go in. I was disappointed when it was 0-0 at the end of the second half, but it is what it is.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at email@example.com