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Amherst Regional boys soccer relishes run to the state championship

Amherst's Jake Schrader passes through his teammates before their state final matchup against Needham Friday night at Worcester State College.

JOSH KUCKENS Amherst's Jake Schrader passes through his teammates before their state final matchup against Needham Friday night at Worcester State College. Purchase photo reprints »

WORCESTER —The Amherst Regional boys soccer team couldn’t cap its season with a state Division 1 tournament title, but Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Needham still capped the greatest week in program history.

The Hurricanes (12-3-5) opened the week by winning the program’s first-ever Western Massachusetts title in penalty kicks against five-time defending champion Ludlow — also the two-time defending state champ. It then defeated Leominster in the state semifinals at Nashoba Regional in Bolton, a virtual home game for the Blue Devils, by a 1-0 score.

The Amherst crowd “was huge. There were a lot of people here, people I didn’t expect to see,” senior captain Cody Baglow said. “They really came out and we appreciate that. To have them back us up, to have them cheer against the other fans and just to have them here. It was awesome to see.”

Amherst capped the week with a trip to Friday’s title game, where they held the Rockets to their first one-goal game of the postseason and were supported by a big and loud crowd.

Baglow said this was a postseason run he’ll never forget.

“This week and the week before, this was all we thought about,” Baglow said. “We saw each other in the hall (at school) and that’s all we talked about. We went to practice every day or a game, we were a family the last two weeks and I think it really showed. We were with each other all the time. We had dinners or went out as a team doing stuff. That definitely showed on the field. We worked together. We knew where we needed to be. We knew what we expected from each other and it was huge.”

While Ludlow is well known throughout the state as a soccer power, the Hurricanes said they were proud to show that the region’s talent in the sport isn’t limited to that one school. Also, playing the Lions three times in a season was a good way to prepare for the state tournament.

“We knew that Ludlow was about as good as it gets, but these guys had a little extra something, I think,” senior defender Jaimon Olmstead said. “They were definitely a challenge, big and physical, especially (Needham standouts Mac Steeves and Aram Ouligian). That’s tough. I don’t think I’ve faced a lot of guys taller than me. It’s been easy to win balls in the air. These guys definitely presented a challenge and they definitely had their chances. We had to step up and I think in a lot of ways we did.”

First-year coach Michael Rudd credited the team’s being so close-knit as a key component of its success.

“It’s the real deal. There’s a true love for each other,” he said. “It is like family. It’s part of being in Amherst, but it’s also part of being on this team. I think we take it from the wider culture of living in Amherst and they just care about each other. It showed all the time from having lots of meals together, to hanging out to having a great time with training. They are a great group of boys.”

Olmstead said the excitement and feeling of family grew over the last few weeks.

“I think I can speak for everyone when I say everyone was just living for these game,” he said. “You try to focus in school, but I’m just jittery every day, even if we had a game the night before or a game the next day, I couldn’t sit still at all. Everyone is so excited to get out here and I think it showed in our play.”

ALL-STATE SELECTIONS —The soccer all-state selections were recently released.

Local boys to earn the honor were Alex DeSantis (Belchertown), Ryan Dickinson (South Hadley), Nate Fournier (Belchertown), Scott Labrie (Hampshire Regional), Zach Parsons (Belchertown), Chris Riel (Belchertown), Paul Delamy (Hopkins Academy), Trevor Lewicki (Holyoke Catholic), Sean Quill (Hopkins Academy), Seaver Rickert (Smith Academy), Mat Sulda (Smith Academy), Tyler Szymkowicz (Hopkins Academy) and Brandon Vazquez (Amherst Regional).

Ryan Reynolds of Cathedral was named an All-American.

For the girls, local all-state selections were Leah Tompkins (Northampton), Natalie Caney (Belchertown), Sarah Kober (Hampshire Regional), Breanna Moreau (Belchertown), Brittany Moreau (Belchertown), Jackie Soucia (Belchertown), Brooke Fairman (Gateway Regional), Nicole Gay (Smith Academy), Brooke Labrie (Granby), Noelle Menard (Granby), Rachel Mick (Granby), Amanda Olson (Hopkins Academy), Cassidy Snyder (Smith Academy) and Alex White (Granby).

Breanne Moreau and Caney were named All-New England.

Riley Hellstein of Agawam earned All-American status.

GIRLS D-1 FINAL — Franklin defeated Nashona Regional of Bolton 2-1 in the girls championship game played before the Amherst-Needham contest.

REMAINING STATE FINALS — The rest of the state’s soccer championships will be decided Saturday.

Division 2 will play a doubleheader at Worcester State with the girls (Belchertown vs. Medfield) squaring off at 3 p.m. and the boys (Groton-Dunstable vs. Medway) following at 5:30.

Division 3 is set for twinbill at Foley Stadium in Worcester with the girls (Sutton vs. Weston) meeting up at 10 a.m. with the boys (Sutton vs. Watertown) taking the field at 12:30.

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

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