Division 3 boys soccer: Ethan Czaporowski guides Belchertown past Pope Francis in semifinals

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  • Ethan Czaporowski, center, of Belchertown, celebrates his goal against Pope Francis with Zach Lajeunesse, left, and Nate Schiffer, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zach Lajeunesse, of Belchertown, celebrates his goal against Pope Francis during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Belchertown won 3-2. Visit gazettenet.com for photos. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shay O’Neill, front, of Belchertown, handles a pass beside Simba Pelletier, of Pope Francis, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday at Holyoke High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Schiffer, of Belchertown, gets control of a pass against Pope Francis during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday at Holyoke High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Schiffer, left, of Belchertown, passes against Connor Wodecki, of Pope Francis, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ethan Czaporowski, left, of Belchertown, scores against Pope Francis during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Belchertown goalie Tony Martel, left, handles a shot from Pope Francis during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matteo Picardi, top, of Belchertown, heads the ball beside teammate Kaden Houle, right, and Yousif Yusif, of Pope Francis, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sam Rogalewski, left, of Belchertown, passes against Pope Francis during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Schiffer, front, of Belchertown, moves the ball against Nick Bertelli, of Pope Francis, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 at Holyoke High School. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/13/2019 12:26:09 AM

HOLYOKE — Ethan Czaporowski doesn’t mind a target on his back.

Belchertown’s freshman leading scorer attracted multiple Pope Francis defenders all Tuesday night in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Boys Soccer Tournament semifinals. The third-seeded Orioles kept feeding him, and Czaporowski delivered. He scored twice and assisted on Belchertown’s third to send the Orioles to the sectional final for the fourth straight year, 3-1 over No. 2 Pope Francis.

“It’s been on me for a while,” said Czaporowski, who has 17 goals on the season. “I take advantage of it.”

Belchertown, the defending champion, will face either No. 1 Mount Greylock or No. 5 Hampshire Regional at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Central. The Mounties and Raiders play at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Holyoke.

Longtime Belchertown “Coach (Tony) Almeida entrusted me with this program, and I’d like to think we’re doing him right,” second-year Belchertown coach Zach Siano said. “I’m so happy for these guys. These guys just go out there and kill themselves for 80 minutes. That was one of the best games I’ve been a part of in my playing and coaching career.”

Belchertown (10-4-6) utilized its speed up front to attack Pope Francis’ center backs early and often. The Orioles won the coin toss and elected to play with the driving wind at their backs for the first half.

“We wanted to try and jump out on them early, change the style that they play,” Siano said.

That involved long, probing passes to Zach Lajeunesse and Czaporowski down the sides, and allowed their dangerous forwards to combine up top. Czaporowski opened the scoring in the 25th minute. Lajeunesse sent a ball down the left side that Czaporowski settled with one touch before firing it low to the bottom-right corner surrounded by three defenders.

“We try and play in little one-twos and make space,” Czaporowski said.

The pair collaborated on the Orioles’ second goal seven minutes later. Czaporowski attacked down the left flank, and when the Cardinals’ defense collapsed he found Lajeunesse near the center of the goal. The senior hit it first time to double Belchertown’s lead.

“It’s mutual, it’s definitely mutual,” Lajeunesse said. “Whenever we’re open, he’s making those good runs.”

Pope Francis cut into the advantage just before halftime. Simba Pelletier attracted heaps of defensive attention with a run down the left side. He passed left to Noah Rivera, waiting on the right with most of the net to shoot at. Rivera didn’t miss and cut the deficit to 2-1.

“The nerves were definitely pumping,” Czaporowski said.

He gave Belchertown some breathing room 10 minutes into the second half. Joseph Bianco worked down the right side before sliding a perfect pass across the ground to Czaporowski’s feet, and he blasted it home for a 3-1 lead.

“He’s getting up there trying to find bodies but he knows if he has enough space he can go at people because he’s proven time and time again he’s one of the most dangerous forwards in the state,” Siano said.

The cushion didn’t last long. Pope Francis drew a penalty in the 65th minute that Bryan Kenney converted to make it 3-2. It was the only one-on-one opportunity Belchertown keeper Tony Martel didn’t stop. He finished with four saves and stonewalled Pope Francis’ Connor Wodecki – an Easthampton resident – twice in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Belchertown didn’t rest on its one-goal lead. As Pope Francis (14-4-2) pressed more numbers forward for an equalizer, the Orioles leaked Czaporowski into dangerous positions trying to find the goal to put the game away. He thought he had his third goal with seven minutes left after facing Cardinals keeper Tanner Kozoil in the open field. Czaporowski chipped him and the ball bounced toward the net, but Kozoil sprinted back and punched it over the bar for a corner to keep the lead at 1.

“I thought it was in,” Czaporowski said.

The scoreboard clock stopped with 5:00 showing, and when the referee’s whistle blew, Belchertown streamed onto the field ecstatic to reach the final. The referee pushed them back to the sideline because a timeout had been called and there was still time left in the game as Pope Francis set up a set piece. The Cardinals brought Kozoil forward to try for an equalizer, but Belchertown snuffed out the final attack to return to the championship game.

“We’ve got one more,” Czaporowski said.

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



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