Girls soccer: Caitlin Graves nets hat trick, Smith Academy blanks Lee 5-0 (PHOTOS)

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 09-21-2023 8:21 PM

HATFIELD – Just a few minutes into the second half with her team up 2-0, Smith Academy’s Emma Moynihan darted toward the net trying to make some magic happen. 

Isabella Letourneau sent a perfect lob pass that bounced once in front of Moynihan, who settled it down and fired it past Lee keeper Maddie Kotek to give her team a 3-0 lead. A cheer rose up from the crowd, along with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” down at the far end of the pitch; it was Moynihan’s 18th birthday, complete with big silver “18” balloons waving in the wind on the sidelines and cupcakes after the game. 

“It’s fun. Definitely an exciting moment. And I've seen a lot of good things with our team, obviously couldn't have done it without the assist from Bella,” Moynihan said. “It’s a very exciting moment.”

Moynihan got her birthday goal and Smith Academy got its third win of the season to remain undefeated, a convincing 5-0 victory over Lee.

Caitlin Graves scored a hat trick, two of those goals coming just two minutes apart, and Meghan Bell also added a goal for the Falcons. 

The shutout was the Falcons’ third of the season – they’ve yet to allow a goal this year, outscoring their opponents 17-0 so far.

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The Falcons’ first goal of the game came in the ninth minute, when Bell picked up a pass from Stella Cubi and broke away from everyone. Kotek charged out to try and reach the ball, but Bell managed to kick it around her and score into a wide open net. Graves got her first goal of the game off a stellar pass from Piper Higuera in the 24th minute, which gave the home team a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Despite the early lead, Smith Academy had a number of opportunities it couldn’t bury against Lee, something head coach David Zononi talked to his team about at halftime. 

“We had a couple of times… our wingers made some great crosses across the goal mouth and nobody was on the far post to put them in, or we just couldn't knock them home,” Zononi said. “Thankfully our defense, man, they've been so good – our goalkeeper, our defense. It takes the pressure off so you can miss some of those up front and you're not living and dying on them.” 

Moynihan scored seven minutes into the second half, and though it took another 20 minutes or so before Graves scored an unassisted tally to make it 4-0, she needed just two more minutes to make it 5-0, again on an unassisted goal. Smith Academy keeper Madison Zononi made six saves to earn the shutout. 

The beginning of the season has been a bit chaotic for the Falcons, as it has been for many teams in western Mass. – constant poor weather postponed three of their games. As they’ve gotten onto the pitch and played in more contests, the team is finally starting to gel together. 

“We're starting to get more comfortable with each other and almost feel what the other person is going to do,” Graves said. 

In addition to that, Smith Academy also lost three key seniors last year, one at each main position – all-state defender Haley Springman, Story Goldman and Keene Jeffress. That’s necessitated some adjustments from the coaching staff this season, who initially tried to put the team in the same kind of formation that they used last year and realized during the preseason that it wasn’t a good fit.

“It was entirely due to the fact that (that) formation fit last year's team really well. We tried it on Play Day and it didn't work out too well at all,” Zononi said. “So (we) went back and came up with a new formation that just strengthens us up the middle a little bit which, which is where we want to be strong, and it's worked out pretty well.”

So far, it’s been a much better fit for the Falcons, but they’ll face a big gauntlet ahead next week – the team plays four games in five days, hosting Frontier on Monday and then going on the road for three more contests against Pioneer, Franklin Tech and Mount Everett. 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.]]>