Division 3 boys soccer: Belchertown edges Mount Greylock to reach WMass finals

  • Belchertown goalkeeper Christopher Tilton deflects a shot on goal by Greylock during the first half of the semifinal game held at Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton on Thursday evening. Caroline Bonnivier Snyder/BERKSHIRE EAGLE

  • Belchertown’s Nathan Schiffer, center, battles with Wahconah defenders during the first half of a Division 3 semifinal game held at Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, Thursday evening. Caroline Bonnivier Snyder/BERKSHIRE EAGLE

Staff writer
Published: 11/8/2018 11:54:14 PM

DALTON — Freezing temperatures occasionally robbed Jarod Bolton of the ability to feel his feet, so he used his head instead.

Conditions for the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Boys Soccer Tournament semifinal Thursday at Wachonah Regional hovered in the mid- to low-30s as No. 1 Belchertown and No. 6 Mount Greylock played for a shot at the sectional title.

In the 29th minute, Belchertown earned a free kick. Evan Fournier lifted the ball over the Mounties’ two-man wall and to the back post. Bolton crashed in from the top of the 18-yard box, crouched and pounded the ball into the back of the net off his forehead.

“I always know Evan’s going to whip in a dangerous ball. He’s probably our best set-piece taker,” Bolton said. “As soon as that ball went up, I knew I wanted it as much as possible. Took a little more of a side hit than I wanted to, but a goal’s a goal, they all count the same.”

It ended as the game’s only goal. Belchertown won 1-0 to reach its eighth title game in the past nine years. The Orioles (14-5-1) will face No. 9 Frontier Regional (11-7-2) in the title game, Sunday at 5:45 p.m. at Westfield State University, a rematch of the 2016 final the Red Hawks won 2-1. Frontier has beaten Belchertown in the teams’ last two postseason meetings.

“It’s a matchup I think both teams want to see. It’s been a great rivalry back and forth,” Belchertown coach Zach Siano said. “We’ve gotten the best of them the last couple years in the regular season, but they seem to have our number in the postseason. We know how important that game is to our program and our seniors.”

Belchertown continued its dominance of Mount Greylock (10-7-2) in the tournament. The Orioles have won eight straight postseason meetings with the Mounties.

“It’s a different group of kids, it’s a different coach over there, we’re on a different field,” Mount Greylock coach Blair Dils said. “It’s not as much fun for me, but these guys don’t have the history that I do. Every year, it’s always a different kind of challenge.”

The Orioles took time to find their footing. They’d played their quarterfinal on turf at Chicopee Comp and had to adjust to the surface.

“It was tough adjusting. We went from turf to this hard, lumpy, cold field,” senior defender Owen Raines said. “As a group we were able to work together and get it done.”

Mount Greylock’s best chances came on the counterattack, but Raines and fellow center back Connor LaFlamme corralled many of the breakaways. Chris Tilton (five saves) handled the rest to keep a clean sheet for the second consecutive game.

“(The plan was to) hold strong at the back, no mistakes,” Raines said. “We made a few, myself included, but as a unit we were able to defend and keep that No. 8 (leading scorer Finn Welch) over there out. He’s deadly.”

In the game’s late moments, the set pieces piled up for the Mounties. Mount Greylock earned a corner in the 63rd minute. The Mounties sent the ball into the 6-yard box and it bounced twice off the grass. No one touched it across the line, and Mount Greylock remained scoreless.

“We certainly put ourselves in a position to score tonight, but some kind of forcefield was around that goal and kept it out a couple times there,” Dils said.

The Mounties earned two corners in the game’s final two minutes, but Belchertown cleared the last one down the left side to Bolton, who held it in the corner until the final whistle sounded.

“Owen and Connor, everyone in the back, they work their assess off back there,” Bolton said. “They work so hard.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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