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Division 3 boys soccer: Frontier slips past Easthampton in semifinals, 1-0

  • Noah Jacques, left, of Frontier challenges Henry Fesland, right, of Easthampton in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 WMass Div. 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7,2018. Behind them is Tim Barrington of the Red Hawks. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Henry Ferland, left, of Easthampton, and Connor Bagdon, of Frontier Regional, vie for a header in the first half of the Red Hawks’ 1-0 Western Massachusetts Division 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp, Wednesday. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Frontier Regional keeper Peter Bronke, right, watches action in front of the goal in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 over Easthampton in their WMass Div. 3 semifinal held at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7,2018. From left are Tenzin Tsundue (14) and Sam Felton-Emrick of the Red Hawks and Erik Geertsma of the Eagles. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tim Barrington, left, of Frontier, and Tyler Karakula, of Easthampton, fight for possession. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tim Barrington, center, of Frontier Regional settle the ball in front of Nic Soucy of Easthampton in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 WMass Div. 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. At left is Doug Hanieski of the Red Hawks. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton goalkeeper Drew Caires, left, puts the ball back in play ahead of Ari Vanegas of Frontier Regional in the first half of the Red Hawks’ 1-0 WMass Division 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp High School, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kip Newman, left, of Frontier Regional and Chris Williams of Easthampton chase the ball in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 WMass Div. 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Adam Johndrow, left, of Easthampton and Tom Kurkolonis of Frontier Regional play in the first half of the WMass Division 3 semifinal at Chicopee Comp on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton goalkeeper Drew Caires, left, puts the ball back in play in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 WMass Div. 3 semifinal win over Easthampton at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Zabir Mohamed, left, of Easthampton challenges Doug Hanieski of Frontier Regional in the first half of the Red Hawks' 1-0 WMass Div. 3 semifinal win at Chicopee Comp High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2018

CHICOPEE — With two elite defenses going toe-to-toe, scoring chances were at a premium in Wednesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament boys soccer semifinal.

Connor Waitkus cashed in on that all-important first goal, and his second-half marker held as the game-winner to keep ninth-seeded Frontier Regional alive in its quest for a third sectional title in four years.

The junior forward took a feed from Doug Hanieski, settled the ball, turned and fired a shot into the corner of the net with 24 minutes, 46 seconds remaining, lifting the Red Hawks to a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Easthampton at Chicopee Comp.

Frontier (11-7-2) will play for the title this weekend against the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between No. 2 Belchertown and No. 6 Mount Greylock at a time and place to be determined.

“Once the postseason starts, we flipped a switch and zoned in,” said Waitkus, whose second goal of the season was his biggest. “I’m not used to scoring but it definitely felt good.”

First-year Frontier coach Evan Horton felt that Wednesday’s game was likely a 1-0 final one way or the other. Easthampton entered with 17 shutouts on the season, and the Eagles hadn’t allowed a goal in their two postseason victories leading up to the semifinal.

“We kept waiting for one to go in,” Horton said. “(Easthampton is) not a team that lets in a lot of goals. We talked before the game about how if we were able to get on the board first, that would be a huge point in our favor.”

Waitkus’ goal came in the 56th minute, as he was able to tuck the ball inside the post out of the reach of a diving Drew Caires, Easthampton’s senior goalkeeper.

“We just got caught in transition and the kid made a good turn and finish,” Eagles coach Mike Soucy said.

Easthampton nearly tied the game three minutes later, when Chris Williams’ header off a Nic Soucy free kick floated toward the upper corner of the Frontier goal. Peter Bronke reacted in time however, as the Hawks goalie left his feet and deflected the ball off the crossbar before it was cleared from further danger.

“We put some pressure on but Peter’s a phenomenal goalie,” Soucy said. “You knew neither team was going to let up much. We kept pressing hard the last 15-20 minutes.”

Caires kept Easthampton within striking distance with 15:30 remaining thanks to another key save. After Frontier’s Noah Jacques was taken down in the box, the Hawks were awarded a penalty kick. Connor Bagdon’s attempt was denied by Caires, and the Eagles had new life still trailing just 1-0.

“That was a huge lift. The guys have a ton of faith in Drew,” Soucy said.

But Frontier’s defense never relented. The unit, led by junior Tenzin Tsundue, kept the bulk of Easthampton’s chances in check. Jacques, Sam Felton-Emrick and Ben Morse also had strong games defensively for the Hawks.

“Those four guys in the back have really become a unit,” Horton said. “We knew that nothing was going to stop (Easthampton). They were going to keep coming at us. One misstep and they’re back in the game. But we never gave in.”

Horton said he’s seen an increased focus from his club since the postseason began.

“We kind of limped in the tournament but all of a sudden we have a team that wants to fight to win these games,” he said.

Waitkus’ goal was the fifth tally of the postseason for Frontier. All five have been scored by different players.

“Every time we get that first goal, it sparks a fire and we’re a different team after that,” Waitkus said.

Easthampton, champions of the Schmid during the regular season, finished its season 17-3-1. The Eagles allowed just nine goals in 21 games.

“The guys took a lot of pride in keeping clean sheets,” said Soucy, who graduates 15 seniors off his veteran club. “Starting last year, they really bought into what we were trying to do defensively. Even when we were ahead in games, we didn’t want to give up a goal. It was great to see what they were able to do out there this year.”

Playing their final game were: Jacob Bacis, Caires, Vinnie Catalano, Henry Ferland, Tyler Karakula, Nic Soucy, Fernando Tenesaca, Williams, Mohamed Zabir, Godson Baptiste, Joe Brough, Sam Colenback, Ryan Cowan, Adam Johndrow and Tyler Mason.