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Division 4 girls soccer: Gateway’s defense slips once, falls 1-0 to Monson in final

WESTFIELD — The Gateway Regional girls soccer team showed once again Sunday evening why it’s arguably the best defensive squad in the area.

The Gators kept the second highest scoring team in western Massachusetts off the board for the first 65 minutes before allowing the lone goal in a 1-0 loss to Monson in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 title game.

“We just do what we do (defensively),” sophomore defender Alyssa Moreau said. “Switch, make tackles, cover — whatever it takes to stop the other team. We compete at our best against every opponent.”

Mustangs senior superstar Brooke Murphy converted with 15 minutes, 54 seconds remaining.

Monson back Gabby Cardano won a 50-50 ball along the right side and lofted a ball into the box. Keeper Sarah Otterbeck came out and got a piece of the ball, and after being knocked around a bit, the ball eventually found Murphy’s foot at the doorstep of an open goal.

“We changed formations three games ago and the girls worked hard to make it work,” Estelle said. “It really worked well for us (in the semifinal against Cathedral and Sunday). It took kind of a freak play to beat us, but give them credit, they made the play.”

It was the first tally Gateway allowed in the tournament and just the ninth given up all season.

“That was a bit of a mishap, we fumbled the ball a little back there,” Moreau said. “If we handled it, I don’t think they score there. But we were happy to hold them for so long.”

Murphy, who surpassed the career 200-point mark earlier this season, had eight solid looks before scoring the goal. But Gateway either blocked off a shooting lane or disrupted her timing.

“She’s a terrific player,” Estelle said. “We played her straight up and did a pretty nice job containing her. Overall, we were able to control the middle of the field fairly well.”

The No. 3 Gators (13-4-4) took two of their three corner kicks in the final 15 minutes, but the balls were cleared out of trouble. Another look was a free kick taken by Moreau from about 50 yards away that keeper Mackenzie Walat (two saves) came out to play.

“Just that one little mistake cost us, unfortunately,” junior defender and cocaptain Jessie Walton said. “But this run we made shows we’re fighters. After getting (to the final) in recent seasons, we weren’t sure we’d get back here after losing some great players.”

The top-seeded Mustangs (17-2-2) will face central Mass. champion Sutton (18-1-2) in the state semifinals Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Lunenburg High. Monson lost two of the previous three WMass Division 2 title games, both to Belchertown.

Otterbeck (six saves) was outstanding in goal for Gateway. The junior robbed Murphy twice within a four-minute span of the second half. She also made a solid stop in the fifth minute on Lauren Libiszewski right out in front.

“That’s the best game Sarah’s ever played,” Estelle said of the first-year goalie. “It’s nice to have your best game in the western Mass. title game.”

Estelle started to list the names of his players who performed well Sunday before stopping himself.

“I don’t know if anybody didn’t play a great game for us,” he said. “I really feel we were getting better and better in every game. But we ran into a great team, especially on offense”

Kendall Rooney (first half) and Charlotte LeBarron (second half) each had a significant scoring chance.

Going into Sunday’s final, Gateway had lost just once in its previous 11 contests.

“We played pretty well all season but we had some down moments,” Estelle said. “This was a nice run to the final, especially beating Cathedral, but we’ve been here plenty of times before.”

The loss marked the final high school game for nine Gateway seniors: Rooney, Sarah Stec, Chelsi Derrig, Kayla Lent, Lily Iglesias, Sami King, Caitlyn Bodoh, Montgomery Moses and Casey McKittrick.

Over the last five seasons, the Gators have played in four western Mass. title games and took home a pair of sectional titles in 2009 and 2010.

“I was able to be on a championship team in eighth grade and as a freshman, and I got to close my career with two more title games,” Rooney said. “We’ve always been a team that battles hard, which is why we’ve enjoyed the success.”

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

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Monday, November 11, 2013

WESTFIELD — With his Hopkins Academy boys soccer team clinging to a one-goal lead late in the second half Sunday afternoon, keeper Ben Pitta called his team together at a stoppage. The Western Massachusetts Division 4 title game had become quite physical, and the senior delivered an important message to his teammates. “I told the guys to calm things down … 0

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