Division 3 boys soccer: Nic Soucy’s PK in closing minutes seals Easthampton’s 2-1 win over Mahar

Friday, November 03, 2017

EASTHAMPTON — Fernando Tenesaca stared at the sky, his head and shoulder throbbing.

The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.

It took him a moment to piece together what happened. No. 7 Easthampton and No. 10 Mahar were tied with less than two minutes of extra time remaining Friday in the first round of the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Boys Soccer Tournament.

Tenesaca was chasing down a long ball in the air when Mahar keeper Alex Gurganus left his line and jumped. His posterior connected with Tenesaca’s head in the penalty box.

“One second I see the ball, the next second I feel a massive hit,” Tenesaca. “Instant pain in my neck and my back.”

The official’s decision came immediately.

Easthampton junior Nic Soucy grabbed the ball just as quickly. No one on his team protested. They knew who would take the penalty.

Soucy started his approach outside the 18-yard box with choppy steps and his left arm hanging in front of him. Once he entered the 18-yard box he took two quick steps and placed the ball in the bottom-left corner past a diving Gurganus. Soucy peeled to his left and ran for the corner flag, sliding on his knees before the Eagles dogpiled him.

“I knew where I was going with it. You’ve gotta stay composed,” Soucy said. “I’ve been in a few penalty shootouts, but nothing quite like this.”

Easthampton won 2-1 in its first playoff appearance since 2010. The Eagles (11-4-4) advance to the quarterfinals, where they’ll face No. 2 Southwick at 2 p.m. Monday. Easthampton lost to Southwick 4-0 in its season opener.

“We’ve been battle-tested, we’ve been in some tough games, as has Southwick,” Easthampton coach Mike Soucy said. “Lotta respect for the program. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Mahar didn’t make it easy at Nonotuck Park. The Senators nearly scored with 4 minutes remaining, but Easthampton keeper Drew Caires dove to his left and stopped the low shot.

“Lotta confidence in him,” Mike Soucy said. “They know if something happens he’s most likely going to step up and take care of it.”

He finished with eight saves in the game, including a breakaway stop in the 45th minute that preserved the Eagles’ 1-0 lead.

Tenesaca gave Easthampton that lead in the 19th minute. Nic Soucy played him a ball over the top into the 18-yard box, where Tenesaca took one touch to control it and beat Gurganus low to the far side.

“What really made the difference is him and me have played together a long time, so we recognize each other,” Tenesaca said. “He understands the runs that I make.”

Easthampton faced a physical game in between those goals. The Eagles received chances from set pieces after fouls in the second half, but couldn’t convert.

“I think the guys were a little nervous, rushed a few attempts,” Mike Soucy said.

Mahar equalized in the 74th minute. Brennan Mailloux scored off a rebound to send the game to extra time.

“We’ve been involved in some tough games this year,” Mike Soucy said. “Mentally we were prepared. They responded”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.