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Pittsfield knocks out Northampton in Division 1 girls quarterfinal

NORTHAMPTON — The offensive pressure finally came. The game-tying goal never did.

A formation change put the Northampton girls soccer team in position to find the equalizer numerous times in the final 10 minutes of Tuesday night’s Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament quarterfinals, but Pittsfield held on for the 1-0 victory.

“We changed to a 3-4-3 instead of a 4-4-2,” Northampton coach John Ruyffelaert said. “We pushed it and pushed it. There were some great opportunities and we just didn’t finish it. Just the luck of the bounce of the ball, I guess.”

No. 4 Northampton (14-3-2) responded by putting two shots on goal and had two near-misses at the Generals’ post.

No. 5 Pittsfield (12-1-3) scored the game winner 7 minutes, 3 seconds into the second half. Sydney Deluce took a run down the right sideline deep into Blue Devil territory and crossed the ball to Nicole Alfonsi in front.

Alfonsi took three touches in the middle of defensive pressure, forcing Northampton goalkeeper Maya Kerstetter (five saves) to commit to the ball and then skidded a pass to Amanda Wright on the left post.

Wright put the ball away in the open net.

“We knew it was going to be that type of one-goal game, whether it was on a corner or something like that,” Pittsfield coach Andy Waluszko said. “They are a strong team.”

The Generals advance to play No. 1 East Longmeadow (16-1-1) in the semifinals at a date, place and time to be announced.

The loss marked the final game for Northampton seniors Leah Tompkins, Kristin Gross, Molly King, Marissa Pellegrino and Galit Sarvet.

“They’ve been great leaders since their freshman year,” said Ruyffelaert, whose Blue Devils won the Central League title outright this season after splitting the championship in 2011. “They’ve stepped up and made everyone around them better. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Northampton struggled to build an offensive attack for much of the night, but Ruyffelaert called a timeout with 12:16 left in regulation and made the formation switch.

The first good scoring chance came 4 minutes later when Pellegrino drew a foul just outside the top of the Pittsfield box.

Tompkins’ blast was caught on the right post by Generals’ keeper Allie Hunt (three saves).

With just over 6 minutes left, a nice combination that started with Tompkins on the left side to Charlotte Maurer on the left post toward Molly King on the right post just missed when King couldn’t quite get a foot on the ball as it rolled past the open net.

Two minutes later, Susan Bell took a restart from 35 yards out and sent it into the box, but no Blue Devil could redirect it on goal.

In the closing moments, Northampton had one last gasp when Maurer won a ball on the left side and fired a high, hard shot to the near post, only to have Hunt smack it just over the crossbar at the last moment.

“We had some great opportunities at the end there,” Ruyffelaert said. “I think that just shows the character of the girls. They didn’t quit. They didn’t give in.”

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

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