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Smith Academy girls soccer trending upward

Cassidy Snyder of Smith Academy, right, shoots against Hopkins Academy goalie Amanda Olson after getting clear of Kyra Michalak Wednesday at Smith Academy. Snyder missed this shot, but scored in the second half and earned her 100th career point for an assist in the first half.

Cassidy Snyder of Smith Academy, right, shoots against Hopkins Academy goalie Amanda Olson after getting clear of Kyra Michalak Wednesday at Smith Academy. Snyder missed this shot, but scored in the second half and earned her 100th career point for an assist in the first half. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

The trending arrow for the Smith Academy girls soccer program has been pointing up in recent seasons.

And over the past week, the Falcons may have hit their highest point yet.

Last Wednesday, Smith Academy shut out rival Hopkins Academy 2-0 in Hatfield for its first-ever victory in the head-to-head series. Then on Friday, the Falcons (10-1) clinched their fifth consecutive Western Massachusetts Division 3 tournament berth with a 1-0 victory over Mahar Regional.

“The girls understand what I’m trying to teach on the technical side, and they’ve all made a commitment to work hard and improve,” coach Matt McCloghry said. “The biggest change over the last five years is that their commitment has been greater and greater every season. That gives us a foundation to be able to compete with these bigger towns with strong youth programs.”

McCloghry could fully grasp the true meaning of the win against Hopkins, as he harkened back to his first game coaching the Falcons in 2008.

“We held them scoreless in the first half, and the girls were so excited to be tied with Hopkins at halftime,” he said. “We went on to lose 4-0. So in a short period, we’ve gone from moral victories to an actual victory. Now every team we play needs to give us respect, which these girls have earned.”

The Falcons exacted an additional measure of revenge after the Golden Hawks edged them 3-2 in last season’s tournament quarterfinals.

“It means so much to us to finally beat Hopkins,” forward Cassidy Snyder said. “They are a great team and a great rival, and beating Hopkins really showed us that all the hard work can pay off. Losing to them in tournament was definitely a downer, but it got us pumped up and wanting payback.”

Of course, Snyder will remember the contest for a number of reasons, as she became the first player in program history to reach 100 career points when she assisted on Hannah Rickert’s tally. Through 11 contests in 2012, Snyder leads the Falcons with 13 goals and 17 points.

“Reaching 100 points is really exciting, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of my team,” Snyder said. “For me giving assists only works because my teammates made some great runs and finished the ball perfectly. When I score it’s because of great crosses from the outside and simple inside passes. It’s always a team effort.”

McCloghry said, “It’s a huge milestone, and I give Cassidy a ton of credit. She’s made herself a better player based on the blueprint I laid out for her. She asked me as an eighth-grader what she needed to do to improve, I told her, and she’s followed my advice to the letter.”

Snyder needs 17 goals to reach 100 for her five-year career. But the fact that point No. 100 came on an assist displayed Snyder’s attitude toward these milestones.

“Having a chance to get 100 goals is amazing, but I would rather see my team be really successful then get to 100 goals,” she said. “My team is more important then anything.”

That unselfish outlook was corroborated by McCloghry.

“This year, she’s playing in the back, she’s playing in the midfield, she’s doing everything I’ve asked her to do,” McCloghry said. “She’s sacrificing some of her individual numbers to help the team. She’s fully committed to team success and making Smith Academy a better place for everyone to play.”

McCloghry was effusive in his praise for the team’s eight seniors — Nicole Gay, Ali Fitzgerald, Kory Wagner, Hannah Sassi, Anna Gelotte, Mollie Higgins, Megan Wendoloski, Lenette Williams — who form the core of the team.

“All my seniors have gotten better, and they all have a real passion for the sport,” he said. “They’ve seen the success we’ve already enjoyed and they only want to work hard to succeed more. These are the girls that have been with me these five years and dedicated themselves to the game and each other as a team. How fortunate am I to have a core group of kids and families who support soccer like they do? My job is to teach them the best way to play team soccer, and the players have done their job better than I could have ever imagined.”

Snyder speaks for her entire team, directing the credit in the opposite direction.

“I have only been part of the Smith Academy program for four years, but from where it started off we all have improved so much thanks to Coach McCloghry,” she said. “He is a great coach to have and we’re extremely lucky to have him here. He has turned Smith Academy girls soccer into a great program.”

Smith Academy moved up from the Tri-County to the Franklin League before the start of the 2011 season. After a second-place finish in the league last season, Smith leads defending champion Athol and Mahar by six points.

“Moving up is the best thing that ever could have happened to us,” McCloghry said. “To play tight games during the regular season gets us to perform better. It helps us quicken our pace, and it’s great to face such experienced teams. Our team thrives with a challenge. I give (former Smith athletic director) Sherry Webb a ton of credit for facilitating that move, that was one of the last things she did as the AD. It’s been awesome for the program.”

Since the Falcons defeated McCann Tech to reach the Division 3 semifinals in 2008, they’ve lost their last four postseason games. But with a talented and tournament-tested team, that’s a streak with a good chance to end in a few weeks.

“We are confident and excited for the tournament,” Snyder said. “Hopefully we play great and up to our potential. All I can say is we are going to play our hearts out and see where it takes us,”

said McCloghry, “We’re going to bark at those heels this year, we’re going to give those top teams, like Granby and Gateway, a tough time. Coming through Smith will not be as easy as it maybe used to be. They may beat us, but they’ll leave the field knowing they had to earn it.”

THINK PINK — The Belchertown fall sports teams are raising money for Sunday’s Rays of Hope Walk in Springfield.

Orioles athletes and coaches will participate in the walk and each team has designated a game/match as a fundraising event for the program.

A portion of the admission for each events will be donated to Rays of Hope for all but the volleyball team, which is participating in the Spike It For Life program. Those proceeds benefit Integrated Cancer Services at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware.

The boys and girls soccer teams are hosting a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Golf is Monday at 3, while cross country is Tuesday at 3:45.

Girls volleyball will hold its event Oct. 22 at 6, while the football team’s is set for Oct. 27 at 2:30.

FRANKLIN COUNTY FOOTBALL CLUB — The Franklin County Football Club will conduct tryouts for U-18 girls and boys soccer teams on Oct. 28, Nov. 4, and Nov. 11.

The girls team tryouts will occur on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 and the boys team tryouts will occur on Nov. 4 and 11. All tryouts will occur on the turf field at Deerfield Academy from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Candidates should plan to attend both tryouts sessions.

The FCFC teams play in the Massachusetts Youth Premiere Soccer League during the spring of 2013. The teams will include players who were born on or after August 1994.

For more information, contact Artie Burke at aeburke11@verizon.net or 413 863-2452.

GAME OF THE WEEK — Amherst Regional at Ludlow, boys soccer, Monday, 6 p.m.

The teams just played in a tightly contested 2-1 Lions victory in Amherst on Tuesday. Now they’ll square off under the lights in Ludlow.

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

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