Belchertown girls soccer shuts out Division 1 champ Minnechaug
Belchertown's Bryanna Veroneau defends the ball against Minnechaug Regional's Kayla Murphy, left, and Kathryn Falconer during a girls' soccer game at Belchertown Friday afternoon. Veroneau had one goal and one assist in the game, helping lead the Lady Orioles to a 2-0 victory over Minnechaug.
Belchertown's Bryanna Veroneau prepares to kick a shot on goal as Minnechaug Regional's Ashley Jones tries to stop her during a girls' soccer game at Belchertown Friday afternoon. Veroneau had one goal and one assist in the game, helping lead the Lady Orioles to a 2-0 victory over Minnechaug.
Belchertown's Brittany Moreau prepares to kick the ball during a girls' home soccer game against Minnechaug Regional Friday afternoon. Belchertown defeated Minnechaug 2-0.
Belchertown's Breanne Moreau defends the ball against Minnechaug Regional's Taylor Coopee during a girls' soccer game at Belchertown Friday afternoon. Moreau had one goal and one assist in the game, helping lead the Lady Orioles to a 2-0 victory over Minnechaug.
Belchertown's Jillian Cavanaugh beats Minnechaug Regional's Sarah Johnston to a header during a girls' soccer game at Belchertown Friday afternoon. The Lady Orioles defeated Minnechaug 2-0.
Belchertown's Breanna Moreau tries to steal the ball from Minnechaug Regional's Michelle Normand during a girls' soccer game at Belchertown. Moreau had one goal and one assist in the game, helping lead the Lady Orioles to a 2-0 victory over Minnechaug.
BELCHERTOWN — There was no doubt the Belchertown girls soccer team belonged with the best programs in Division 1. But after only their sixth game Friday afternoon, the Orioles have clearly established themselves as the class of western Massachusetts.
In a potential postseason preview, last year’s Western Mass. Division 2 champions beat defending sectional D1 champ Minnechaug 2-0.
“We expected a well-played game and that’s what we got. It was tough, physical, but nothing over the top,” Belchertown coach Chris Mogavero said. “Scoring the first goal kind of took them out of their game plan. But Minnechaug has really good players.”
Senior captains Bryanna Veroneau and Breanne Moreau each scored a goal and assisted on the other’s tally.
“It’s a very fun matchup, (Minnechaug) keeps you on your toes the whole game,” Veroneau said. “Some games can get boring at a certain point, so it’s great to have a tight, close game all the way through. And the next time we play them it will probably be even closer.”
The Orioles (6-0, 4-0 Coombs) have played every team in their league with four shutout victories. They’ve outscored East Longmeadow, Ludlow, West Springfield and Minnechaug 13-0.
“It’s awesome to get moved up to the top league, and we’re proud that we’ve had some shutouts early,” senior keeper Sarah LaClair said. “We’re always excited to play Minnechaug, and now these games really matter. So we were looking forward to this one.”
After an early feeling out process by both squads, the Falcons had some solid scoring opportunities in the first half, but LaClair (10 saves) made a pair of key stops to keep them off the board.
“Minnechaug is a great team, the best competition we’ve faced so far,” LaClair said. “So I was a little nervous early because if the ball gets by me it’s a goal. But I’m really proud of how my defense played in front of me and how we’ve come together as a team.”
LaClair’s best save came off a deflection by Jaileen Goncalves that sent the goalie sprawling to her left.
“I didn’t even see the player coming, I saw the shadow and knew I had to dive to that side to stop the ball,” she said.
In the eighth minute, Moreau crossed from the right to set up Veroneau, who blasted a shot to the upper-right corner for a 1-0 advantage.
“Breanne crossed it over on the ground and it was a one-touch shot,” Veroneau said. “I didn’t even have to look up, to be honest. I put my head down and shot it as hard as I could.”
Belchertown could have doubled its lead late in the first half, but Minnechaug defender Kathryn Falconer broke up a break by Brittany Moreau.
However, that insurance goal came just 2 minutes, 5 seconds after halftime. Working the ball up the right side, Veroneau sent a perfect feed to Breanne Moreau, who delivered a one-touch tally to the far side.
“I had my head up and saw Bree make the through run, and I laid it out there for her,” Veroneau said. “She took it from there, shot and scored. There was a lot of energy and focus all day for us. We came out and proved ourselves.”
The Orioles had three chances for a third goal. Jillian Cavanaugh and Kayla Henry hit the crossbar, while Veroneau just missed a second goal by sending a shot over the bar.
The Falcons, who played a counterattacking style for much of the game, pushed the attack around the midway point of the second half. But LaClair and the Orioles defense stood strong to keep their shutout streak alive and not give Minnechaug life.
“Sarah is physically stronger this year, which has definitely made her a better keeper,” Mogavero said. “She’s been rock solid so far.”
He added, “Coming into the season we figured we might not score quite as many goals, but we still have more than enough firepower. But our defense has stepped up so far with three new starters. They received a lot of playing time last year, but now they’re asked to played a ton of minutes. Those kids work really hard and they don’t let anyone behind them.”
LaClair appreciates the opportunity to play in Division 1 this season. She hadn’t see much high-pressure action in previous Division 2 tournaments.
“The past few years our team’s been so solid that I didn’t see the ball much,” she said. “We lost some good players in the back but we’ve replaced them. But with the better competition I’m going to touch the ball a lot, and it’s nice to know that my performance will matter more.”
Mogavero said the challenge his team faces will be playing the league rivals a second time with possible third meetings looming come tournament time. Following six consecutive independent matchups, the Orioles get back into league play Oct. 9 at Minnechaug.
“The second time around will be interesting because these teams have seen us and can plan accordingly,” he said. “They’ll also want to get some revenge on us for beating them the first time. They’ll be extra hungry so we’ll have to be strong mentally.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.