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Tyler Gay powers Smith Academy boys soccer past Granby in D3 first round

HATFIELD — Smith Academy boys soccer coach Jason Duncan knew Tyler Gay had some special soccer in him. On Friday, in the Falcons’ first Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament game, the sophomore delivered on that promise.

Gay set up Smith’s first three goals and then scored the final one as the No. 4-seeded Falcons dispatched No. 13 Granby 4-1.

“We’ve been on Tyler all season,” Duncan said. “We all have an idea of who he can be as a player and we were waiting for him to bust out. We’ve seen it in practice. Today was his day. He got the ball and he gave it to who was going to score. He was the hub of our wheel today. He made us run.

“He’s got a high ceiling as a player,” Duncan continued. “He’s only a sophomore. He shows us those things. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in practice. Seeing it with that consistency in game is something we’re looking for, for sure.”

Smith (13-4-2) will host the winner between No. 12 Holyoke Catholic and No. 5 Turners Falls, who play Saturday at 7 p.m. A date and time has yet to be determined.

Duncan thought his team learned from last year’s home tournament shootout loss to Mt. Everett.

“I’ve been reminding the kids, until we play Granby, there’s nothing else to think about,” Duncan said. “Last year we got caught up a little bit looking down the road and we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to. We’re very focused. We had a couple good practices this week.”

Smith took a 1-0 lead 14 minutes, 59 seconds into the game on a corner kick. Gay’s pass soared perfectly to the middle of the box where Keith Natale headed it by Rams goalie Brett Sullivan.

Less than two minutes later, Gay fed Derek McMahon on the right side. McMahon took the pass with his back to the net, pivoted and fired the ball into the near side of the net.

Granby got on the board with 12:10 left in the half on a terrific effort by Devin Bergeron, who stole a soft clear attempt, stepped around a defender and crossed the ball across the box to Malcom Muguku, who tapped it in to make it 2-1.

“We came out with good intensity and some good possessions early in the game,” Granby coach Todd Dorman said. “We really made a match of it in that first half. I don’t think the score reflects how well we played.”

Gay set up Mat Sulda with just over seven minutes left in the half to stretch the lead back to two goals at 3-1.

Granby got five corner kicks to Smith’s one in the second half, but Smith scored the half’s only goal when Natale set up Gay with 18:45 remaining.

“It felt really good, three assists and a goal, to really help my team out,” Gay said. “Everyone on offense played really well.”

Gay landed awkwardly after the goal and had to come out. He spent the rest of the game with ice on his ankle, but expected to be ready for Smith’s second-round game.

“I just got cleated. I just need to ice it for a couple days,” he said.

Cam Woodward made seven saves for Smith, while Sullivan stopped seven for the Rams.

Woodward saw more action that Duncan would have liked.

“Cam is a junior. He’s game-tested. He’s been through tournament three years in a row now,” Duncan said. “We need to be better on defense. If he and (sweeper) Seaver (Rickert) never touch the ball. That’s our best game.”

It was the final high school game for seven Granby (7-7-5) seniors: Harrison Lussier. Ian Durepo, James Cupak, Brandon Cloutier, Dean Marino, Seth Archambeault and Andrew Strycharz.

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