Belchertown boys soccer cruises into semifinals
Belchertown players William Aldrich, front from left, Alex DeSantis and Sam Stroman celebrate Stroman's goal against Palmer Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Christopher Riel of Belchertown, center, and Ryan Almeida of Palmer, right, jostle for the ball Monday in Belchertown. Austin Pedro is in the background. Purchase photo reprints »
Sam Stroman of Belchertown, right, and Austin Pedro of Palmer eye a pass Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
William Aldrich of Belchertown, left, traps the ball beside Austin Pedro of Palmer Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Christopher Riel of Belchertown, right, moves the ball against Ryan Almeida of Palmer Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Nathan Fournier of Belchertown, top right, heads the ball beside Palmer defenders Matt Blanchette, top left, and Matthew Sychtysz Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
Alex DeSantis of Belchertown, right, moves the ball against Eric Droz of Palmer Monday in Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
BELCHERTOWN — Zach Parsons has gotten so much offensive support, the Belchertown boys soccer goalkeeper hasn’t had to make many clutch saves this season.
But Parsons has been there when needed, including in the first half of Monday night’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament quarterfinals against Palmer.
With the scoreboard empty in the 12th minute, Panther midfielder Conner Roche unleashed a screeching line drive from the 25 yards out to the upper-right corner of the Belchertown goal.
Parsons had just enough time to get his hands up and knock it over the crossbar.
“I didn’t even see it for most for of the way,” Parsons said. “He hit it through a crowd of people and the ball seemed to have eyes. It got through everyone.”
The save turned out to be Palmer’s lone good look at a goal and the Orioles eventually got their offense rolling en route to a 5-0 win.
“He’s always there for us. That’s meant a lot to us all season long,” coach Tony Almeida said. “The guys in front of him have the confidence to know he’s going to make the save for them and that helps us transition our offense.
“Fortunately, Zach made that great save and that put us into a positive mood right there. Then once we got the first one, things started to loosen up. The kids played well.”
Parsons finished with four saves, none nearly as challenging as the first, while Owen Roche had 12 for No. 9 Palmer (10-4-6).
Parsons “doesn’t always need to do a lot, but when he does, he’s the greatest goalie we could possibly have,” Orioles junior midfielder Alex DeSantis said.
No. 1 Belchertown (19-0) will play No. 4 Mount Greylock (16-3-1) in the semifinals at a time, plate and date to be determined.
The contest will mark the fourth straight year the two programs have met in either the semifinals or finals. The Mounties have been the top seed each time, but Belchertown is 3-0 in those games.
“Every time you get to another level in this tournament, it’s always unbelievable, the difference,” Parsons said. “You play a really good team and then you play an even better team that next time. Everyone knows they have to step it up even more. It’s not going to be a 5-0 game.”
On Monday, the Orioles got on the board in the 28th minute when Chris Riel’s attempt from 26 yards out hit the crossbar and bounced to DeSantis on the left post.
DeSantis, who was running in from the side, collected the ball and put it in the net all in one motion.
“It was a great shot by Chris and it just laid out for me perfectly,” DeSantis said. “I couldn’t not score it. It was right there.”
Belchertown doubled its lead 2:20 later when Jack Stinson’s cross from the left side found Sam Stroman’s head on the far post.
The Orioles added three more goals in the second half. DeSantis assisted on goals by both Christopher Noga and Oliver Hopkins. Stinson also scored once, assisted by Mark Chmura.
“I think it was a little tense to start,” DeSantis said. “Everyone was a little nervous for the first game in the playoffs. Once we got the first goal, everyone was excited. We were ready to go.”
Belchertown has now outscored its opponents 108-7 on the season and posted 13 shutouts.
We have “a lot of very skillful players and what can you say? They’ve really come through this year big time,” Almeida said. “They are making their runs. They are playing within the system and when things are working everybody is in the right spot and we have put them away. Fortunately, that’s been happening.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.