Division 3 boys soccer: Belchertown reaches first state final since 2014

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  • Owen Raines, left, of Belchertown, heads the ball against Michael Fresh, of Blackstone Valley Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ethan Czaporowski, left, of Belchertown, moves the ball against Nicholas Kirby, of Blackstone Valley Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Schiffer, left, of Belchertown, moves the ball against a Blackstone Valley Tech defender during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zachary Lajeunesse, left, of Belchertown, moves the ball against Raymond Makynen, of Blackstone Valley Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Belchertown goalie Tony Martel, right, grabs a loose ball ahead of Jack Charron, of Blackstone Valley Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zachary Lajeunesse, front, of Belchertown, scores with a free kick against Blackstone Valley Tech during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kaden Houle, right, of Belchertown, moves the ball ahead of Ian Chartier, of Blackstone Valley Tech, during the state Division 4 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Grafton High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2019 11:10:59 PM

GRAFTON — The corner kick routine Belchertown runs through at the end of every practice came in handy in the state Division 3 boys soccer semifinals.

The Orioles were tied with Blackstone Valley Tech in the 58th minute when they earned a corner. It sailed over everyone but off a Beavers defender for a second crack. Belchertown coach Zach Siano signaled the routine. Joseph Bianco sent it short post and low as two Orioles streaked toward it. Blackstone Valley Tech knocked it out of bounds, giving Belchertown one more shot.

“We ran the same one back to back,” Siano said. “I watched how they were set up and I said ‘run it again.’ They didn’t seem to sniff it out.”

Instead, Nate Schiffer had a nose for the goal. He contacted it in the air aiming for the far post. When the ball hit the netting, Schiffer ran to Bianco arms extended and wrapped him in a bouncing hug.

“I just wanted to get a tap on it,” Schiffer said. “We do it almost every corner, it’s a normal thing for us.”

That tally put the Orioles ahead for the first time after chasing the previous 59 minutes. Belchertown added another goal on a vicious Shay O’Neill volley three minutes later, capitalizing on a restart after a Blackstone Valley timeout. Ethan Czaporowski laid the ball back after the Beavers’ defense collapsed on him near the top of the box, and O’Neill struck it true in the 63rd minute.

“It helped us play our game, playing on the ground, not stress out,” Schiffer said.

Belchertown put the game in a vice grip for the remaining 18 minutes and won 3-1 to advance to its first state title game since 2014.

The Orioles (12-4-6) will face Medway (20-2-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Foley Stadium in Worcester. The South sectional champion Mustangs defeated North champion Bedford, 1-0, in the other state semifinal. Belchertown won the only state title in program history in 2013 when it took down Medway 2-1 in overtime at Foley Stadium.

“As storied as this program has been, we’ve only been to three state finals and won one,” Siano said. “We’re hoping to right some sins of the past and figure it out going forward.”

The Orioles, playing in their second straight state semifinal and sixth in the past nine years, planned to use their experience and poise to jump on the Beavers early.

“We thought we could catch them a little bit lacking in their program’s first state appearance,” Siano said. “But hats off to BVT, they came out flying around the field, threw everything they had at us.”

Instead of wilting under the lights, Blackstone Valley (15-4-1) struck first. Grant VanDyke lofted a speculative ball from more than 40 yards out high into the sky. Belchertown keeper Tony Martel handled it briefly, but the ball slipped out of his hands and over the line for a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.

“It made us mad,” Schiffer said. “It made us want it with our heart even more and play with even more passion.”

The Orioles allowed Czaporowski to orchestrate their offense up top, sending him through balls so he could draw defenders and pick out Belchertown’s arriving attackers in open space. Blackstone Valley committed a handball trying to deflect one of those passes in the 32nd minute. Senior Zach Lajeunesse immediately stepped to the penalty spot and calmly laced a shot low and down the middle as Blackstone Valley keeper Zach Brabham dove to his left.

“I step into those pretty nice, so coach lets me take ‘em,” Lajeunesse said. “Blackstone were in my head obviously, but you gotta remain calm.”

With the game tied, Belchertown drew the Beavers out of their shell and capitalized on the gaps to go ahead.

“We pushed the gas more,” Schiffer said.

When the final whistle sounded, Belchertown spilled onto the field. They ran over to a raucous fan section. Senior captain Owen Raines led the way with one fist raised.

“Surprisingly it’s a better feeling than winning the Western Mass. championship. I never thought there would be a better feeling than that,” Schiffer said. “We want to win. We didn’t just go to states to lose states.”

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



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