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Division 3 boys soccer: Palmer slips past Hampshire

WESTHAMPTON — The Hampshire Regional and Palmer boys soccer teams finished a point apart in the Holley Division standings, and both regular-season meetings resulted in draws.

In Monday night’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 quarterfinal, however, Palmer gained some separation in a 2-0 victory.

The Panthers scored once early and again late. The Raiders pushed the attack right to the final whistle, but couldn’t beat keeper Owen Roche, who made nine saves.

No. 4 Hampshire (9-2-6) lost in the quarterfinal round for the fourth time in five seasons. The Raiders didn’t suffer a loss through their first 15 contests, before dropping their regular-season finale at West Springfield.

“We accomplished a lot this year, but it’s hard to put the season into words after such a tough playoff loss,” Hampshire coach Dan Moynahan said.

No. 5 Palmer (11-4-4) advanced to the sectional semifinals to meet top-seeded Belchertown (17-2). The Orioles blanked the Panthers 3-0 during the regular season and 5-0 in last season’s Division 2 quarterfinals.

In the sixth minute, Troy Remillard made a strong run up the left wing and crossed to the middle. Kyle Ingram then passed to the back side post, where Eric Droz beat Ben Preston for a 1-0 lead.

“The first goal was an odd one for us to allow,” Moynahan said. “We were caught ball-watching, which we hardly ever do. They had an open man there on the far post and he converted.”

With just under 10 minutes left, Droz threaded a pass through the Hampshire defense and sent Remillard in on a breakaway. Preston came out to challenge, but Remillard snuck the shot inside the right post for the insurance tally.

“We were pushing the game at that point and only had three in the back,” Moynahan said. “They counterattacked well on us, especially on that sequence.”

The Raiders took nine corners, including six in the first 20 minutes. But the Panthers defense, led by Connor Roche and Matt Blanchette, didn’t allow many clean looks through to the goal.

Bryan Brasil had a pair of turnaround shots from inside the 18 in the first half that were deflected over the net. Then early in the second half, Kevin Brasil put a direct kick on net but Roche was in position to make the stop.

The Brasil brothers and Brendan Bzdel sparked the attack for the Raiders, who controlled possession much of the night in search of the tying goal.

“It was just one of those games for us,” Moynahan said. “Every 50-50 ball seemed to bounce toward their defense and away from our guy. But Palmer defended really well and deserves a ton of credit. We’ve gotten that equalizer all season, so we were confident right to the end.”

Preston finished with seven saves. His best was a point-blank stop on Ingram roughly midway through the second half to keep it 1-0.

It was the final game for Hampshire seniors Preston, Kevin Brasil, Yiannis Rizos, Matt Rigali and Jeremy Parks.

“Our seniors had a great final year — Ben in goal, Matt and Yiannis on D, and Kevin up front,” Moynahan said. “They were the biggest reason why we were undefeated for most of the season, and I’m really sorry to see them go out this way.”

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

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