Alex DeSantis goal gives Belchertown boys soccer title
Alex DeSantis of Belchertown, right, moves the ball against Connor Storti of Monument Mountain Sunday during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Chris Riel of Belchertown, center, moves the ball between Mounument Mountain defenders Jamie Waterman, left, and Sam Plishtin during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final Sunday at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Nathan Fournier of Belchertown, right, heads the ball beside Lucas Wartella of Monument Mountain during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final Sunday at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Alex DeSantis of Belchertown, right, scores the game-winning goal while defended by Connor Storti of Monument Mountain Sunday during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »
Alex DeSantis of Belchertown, center, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Chris Riel during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Nick Masiero of Monument Mountain looks on. Purchase photo reprints »
Belchertown goalie Zach Parsons, left, and Nathan Fournier, center, hold the trophy as their team gathers to celebrate after winning the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament final against Monument Mountain Sunday at Westfield State University. Belchertown won 1-0. Purchase photo reprints »
WESTFIELD — It took longer than it had all season, but the Belchertown boys soccer team finally broke through late Sunday afternoon.
Alex DeSantis scored with 48 seconds remaining in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament finals for a 1-0 victory over Monument Mountain at Westfield State.
“It’s huge” to win a title as a senior, said midfielder Chris Riel, who scored the game winner in the 2011 final. “It’s an amazing feeling because we know this is our last year, our last chance.”
The No. 1 Orioles (21-0) have scored 112 times this season and haven’t been shut out all season. DeSantis’ goal was the latest in a game this season the team scored its first goal.
“We definitely picked it up in the second half, but we definitely got a little more desperate as the game went on without scoring,” DeSantis said. “We were getting a little bit desperate. ... We didn’t want to go into overtime and play any more than we needed to.”
The goal came in a scrum in front of the Monument net. DeSantis snagged it on the left post with a touch toward the outside, pivoted to the left and blasted a left-footed shot inside the near post.
“It was just a scramble at the net and (the ball) happened to (land) right at my feet and I took the shot,” DeSantis said. “I’m definitely a lefty, but I will take righty shots.”
The Orioles will play Groton Dunstable (16-2-4) in the state semifinals at Westfield State Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Belchertown girls team plays its state semifinal at 5 p.m.
“We each have to keep working,” said goalkeeper Zach Parsons, who finished with five saves for his 14th shutout of the season Sunday. “We have to keep playing better. Last year, we won western Mass. and it was great. Then we went and lost and it was over. We have to play better this year.”
Monument ended its season 16-3-2. Two of its three losses came to the Orioles, who won in Great Barrington 2-1 on Oct. 20.
Playing against the Spartans again, “we didn’t expect anything else. I’ve been telling these guys since we won Friday that this was going to be a one-goal game,” Almeida said. “There was no doubt in my mind. I knew they were going to come in and play a lot of defense, which is what a lot of teams do to us. We hung in there.”
The goal finally came after Almeida moved DeSantis, usually a midfielder, up to forward on the left side.
“He’s got great skills and a great shot,” Almeida said. “I’m always looking for ways to get him opportunities because if he gets two opportunities, three opportunities, he’s going to score.”
Monument nearly responded in the closing seconds, quickly taking the ball into the Belchertown end and getting the ball to Ian Akers right in front, but Parsons was there for the save.
“They sent the through ball in and it bounced around and right on the kid’s foot right in front of the net,” Parsons said. “He was a few feet away. He kicked it and I knew I had to get to it. I couldn’t let that happen.
“You relax a little bit (when DeSantis scored) because you are winning now, but there were still 48 seconds left and you can’t give it back. That’s not how you want to go into overtime.”
The teams played even in the first half and Belchertown carried more of the play in the second, especially the final 28 minutes.
“At halftime, we knew we weren’t playing as well as we need to to win,” Riel said. “We knew we had to play simply, move the ball slowly and get shots on net.”
Almeida took a timeout with 6:48 left in the game to make some adjustments
“We started to notice that their guys were getting tired,” Almeida said. “We wanted to get more speed into our game and push them back a little further and get some chances.”
The Orioles then huddled up as a team and got themselves mentally ready to
“Everyone was talking about how it’s the whole season down to this final seven minutes,” Parsons said. “This is when you’ve got to put your best soccer on the field right now. You have to got out there and give it everything you’ve got, and that’s what we did.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.