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Division 3 girls soccer: Easthampton shuts down Hoosac 2-1 in quarterfinals

CHESHIRE — The Easthampton girls soccer team has focused on defense all season, and Hoosac Valley saw first hand how good the Eagles can be.

The Eagles held the Hurricanes off the scoreboard for almost 75 minutes in a 2-1 victory in a Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament quarterfinal on Tuesday.

The sixth-seeded Eagles (12-1-4) will play No. 10 Athol (9-7-4) at a time, date and place yet to be determined. Athol beat No. 2 Mount Greylock, 2-1 on penalty kicks Tuesday.

Meg Rodowicz’s goal with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left was only the seventh allowed by Easthampton in 17 games this season. That’s an average of .41 goals against per game.

The Eagles’ defense was tested early as Hoosac dominated the opening 20 minutes and had several good scoring opportunities, but it was Easthampton that found the back of the net on its first shot.

Easthampton had a set piece to the right of the 18-yard box. Jen Szafir swung it in and Angela Nardi converted from the middle of the box with a nice volley, leaving keeper Megan Richardson no chance.

From then on, the Eagles played aggressive soccer and won a majority of the 50-50 balls. That, coupled with their tight marking, made life miserable for Hoosac as it tried to draw even.

It actually caused the Hurricanes to stray from what’s worked so well for them: Possession, high-percentage passes and crosses into the box.

It played right into Easthampton’s defense-first and win-the-next-ball mentality.

Then the Eagles got another scoring chance and took advantage. Willow Ross crossed a great ball into the box and Maddie Grabowski found room for herself before connecting on the back end for a 2-0 lead.

“That’s where we start — defensively. And then we look to try and possess and build in the midfield and maybe spring a Maddie Grabowski or someone off like that,” Easthampton coach Brian Miller said. “So it is sort of a transition kind of opportunities we look for.”

The 2-0 lead let Easthampton settle into its defensive formation even more. Content to let Hoosac possess on the outside, the Eagles pressured every pass, often times getting to it first. The Hurricanes simply couldn’t match the intensity until desperation set it.

When it did, Easthampton slacked on its pressure and the Hurricanes found themselves within a goal of forcing overtime.

Alyssa Fugiel made six saves in the win.

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