Division 4 girls soccer: Gateway Regional falls in semifinals to Lenox on penalty kicks

For the Gazette
Thursday, November 09, 2017

HOLYOKE — Sarah Fenton doesn’t like to deal with pressure situations very much. On Thursday night, the Lenox girls soccer senior captain was forced into one of the most intense situations of her athletic career.

She dealt with the pressure perfectly, and as a result her Millionaires will contend for a Western Massachusetts Division 4 title Saturday.

In the fifth round of penalty kicks against second-seeded Gateway Regional, the No. 3 Millionaires and the Gators were tied 3-3. Gateway, going first in the final round, saw sophomore Erin Harris clatter her shot off the crossbar. Fenton was next.

“Being a senior captain, I’ve always felt like I’m a leader on this team,” Fenton said. “When I realized that it came down to me, I realized that it’s not about me anymore — it’s about the rest of my team. ... All I could think about was doing that and being there for my team and just finishing it.”

Fenton put a perfectly placed shot into the upper corner of the net and around Becca Herman, setting off a rush of celebrations as the Millionaires advanced on penalty kicks, 4-3. The score after regulation and overtime was scoreless.

“I don’t do well with pressure,” Fenton said. “But for some reason, today I fought through it and said ‘I have to do this for my team.’”

The penalty shootout proved to be the highlight of the night in a game that was a defensive chess match.

“We had three real good chances to score in the game and we came away empty,” Gateway coach Steve Estelle said.

In the opening exchanges, Lenox’s Shelby Lynch had a shot stuffed by Herman (four saves), then Abby Schilling had two rebound chances deflect off a defender.

In the second overtime, Gateway senior Jessica Van Heynigen got behind the Lenox defense. One-on-one with eighth-grade goaltender Sophie Patella, Van Heynigen tried to line up a shot, but Patella rushed off her line, closed the gap and forced the shot directly at her for the save.

“Sophie has been our savior this entire season,” Fenton said. “There have been times where our defense, as strong as they are, could not get to the ball, but Sophie always does.

“We all fought hard to get there, but I know Sophie would be there because she always is.”

The win is the second in three years for Lenox over Gateway in the semifinals. In 2015, the game was also decided on penalty kicks.

This was the third straight year Gateway (12-3-3) fell on PKs. The Gators lost in the finals last year to Granby.

Lenox (12-5-3) will face No. 1 Granby (12-5-3), at 11 a.m. Saturday at Westfield State.

“At the end of the second overtime, I looked at my assistant, Kristin Parkinson, a senior captain, was coming off the field, we all looked at each other, we said ‘Yup, of course this is what it came to,’” Lenox coach Kyle Zinchuck said. “I’m really happy we came out on top at the end there, but PKs are a really tough way to finish a game. Hats off to Gateway, they played an absolutely terrific game. We both had a few chances, but really, this was a solid defensively played game.”

Sophomore Juliana Dickinson, Van Heynigen and freshman Rebecca Hyjek each netted their penalty kick. Sophomore Ava Auclair missed her attempt.

It was the final game for Van Heynigan and Megan Wright.