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Belchertown boys soccer team focused on state tournament

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.

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 »

WESTFIELD — The Belchertown boys soccer team has talked a different game all season.

After losing 1-0 in last year’s state Division 2 tournament semifinal game against Groton-Dunstable, the Orioles were determined not to let the Western Massachusetts title feel like a reasonable and acceptable goal.

They wanted more.

“The previous two seasons, our mentality was to win Western Mass.,” said junior midfielder Alex DeSantis, who scored the game winner in Sunday’s 1-0 sectional final win over Monument Mountain. “But this year, we’ve just been going for states from the beginning. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

The Orioles will square off in a rematch against the Crusaders (16-2-3) with a spot in the state finals on the line tonight at Westfield State at 7 p.m.

The Crusaders, the defending state champs, defeated Tyngsboro 6-1 in the Central Mass. title game and are unbeaten in 17 straight games.

From the beginning of this season, coach Tony Almeida has talked about setting the goals higher.

“I’ve been trying to get these guys to understand that if you want to get to that point, you have to think that that’s where you want to go, which hasn’t been the case for many of our teams in the past,” said Almeida, whose teams have won five WMass titles since 2003 and reached the state title game in 2005, where it lost to Stoneham on penalty kicks. “A Western Mass. title has been the goal.”

Belchertown enters the contest 21-0 and has outscored its opponents 112-8 on the season with 14 shutouts.

Almeida would love to see this team take the next step.

“It would be awesome for these kids, especially considering the season they’ve had,” he said. “It’s been the goal from day one.”

The Belchertown girls team opens the school’s doubleheader as it faces Northbridge (17-1-3) at 5 p.m. The Rams won their first-ever sectional title 3-2 against Holy Name Sunday.

Last year, the Belchertown teams were swept in the state semifinals, with the girls also falling — 1-0 to eventual state champ Auburn — on the same night as the boys’ loss in Lunenburg.

The Orioles, who have won three straight WMass titles and five overall under coach Chris Mogavero, won the state championship in 2003.

Both teams have the same mindset tonight.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to the state finals,” senior midfielder Chris Riel said. Winning WMass “is just another stepping stone. Now we have the next step.”

The state title games are set for Saturday at Worcester State. The D-2 girls play at 3 p.m. followed by the D-2 boys at 5:30.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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