Lenox boys soccer team falls to Bromfield in MIAA Division IV state semifinals
MARLBOROUGH — The Lenox boys soccer team conceded just one goal over 325 minutes of playoff soccer this season.
It was just unfortunate for the Millionaires that one goal also happened to be the one that bounced them from their tournament run.
Playing in the MIAA Division IV state semifinals on Tuesday night at Marlborough Middle School, Ryell deRuijter was able to capitalize on a rebound opportunity in the second half for the night's lone goal, as the Millionaires ended their season with a 1-0 loss to the Trojans.
Lenox finishes its campaign as Western Mass. champions with a 13-6-3 record.
"It was tough. We've never seen a team like that in the Berkshires," Lenox defender Matt Heim said. "They played a lot different, a lot more physical. My strategy was just trying to get it to PKs, trying to push them off one more time and try to get a lucky goal, see if we could keep it going.
"We just had a tough break at the back. I feel like we did everything we can. We tried our hardest out there, everyone gave 100 percent. I'm really proud of my boys."
The defensive effort from Heim, Nick Monteleone, Zi Santos and Noah Kalischer-Coggins was immense in the game, while Matt Tibbetts made five saves — including a couple stellar ones — as the senior-laden back five did everything it could to stop the Trojans.
In the first 20 minutes of the game, the defense had to be strong as the Trojans came out and tried to blitz the Millionaires. Charlie Pappas had a shot tipped out of play by Tibbetts in the opening exchanges, setting the tempo for the rest of the night.
"Every single one of those kids was 6-foot-3 and lightning fast," Lenox coach Matt Cote said. "and we just don't see that. ... Despite that, you saw how hard they came out in the first 20 minutes. It was like 'What is happening?' They were in our faces everywhere."
Lenox, though, finally found its sea legs after Tibbetts came up with a big double save with 21 minutes remaining in the first half. First, Tibbetts dove low to stop Pappas, then managed to recover and repel a shot from John Fitzsimmons.
With the team galvanized, Keveen Delgado forced Austin Franklin to make a pair of saves before the half let up.
"After the first 20 minutes, everything kind of calmed down," Cote said. "We found some space in the midfield, things started to shape up a little bit. I'm not saying we had the better of play, because we didn't, but there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the first half."
In the second, that glimmer nearly turned into a beam of hope.
Seven minutes into the second half, Ian Laurin put Lenox's best effort on Franklin's net, rattling the crossbar on a shot from distance. If Laurin's shot had dipped another inch or two, the complexion of the game might have changed dramatically.
Instead, the missed opportunity allowed Bromfield to take advantage.
After Tibbetts made another save with about 15 minutes left to play, Bromfield kept knocking. With a 13:50 to go, the door finally broke.
Pappas was again the man starting everything, as he unleashed a low shot that Tibbetts had to dive to save. Tibbetts, though, could only push the ball back into play, and deRuijter was there to smash home the rebound.
"We didn't have any breakdowns, per se, and [Tibbetts] of course gobbled up everything. Unfortunate that that one snuck through, but that's the way it is," Cote said. "When you crack, crack, crack at the goal like that, that's bound to happen."
With the goal in hand, Bromfield was able to ease up slightly and work on its defending. Lenox got one more good opportunity late on a free kick, but Heim sent his effort wide of the goal.
"I would say I'm proud, but never satisfied," Heim said about his feelings on the game. "I really wanted that win today. I'm sure if we got a few more bounces — if Ian's shot went in, if I scored that goal at the end — it would have been a completely different game. I feel like we could have won, we just needed a few lucky bounces to go our way."
The mood on the Lenox sideline after the game was somber, but even in the loss Cote shifted the focus back to what the team accomplished in 2017.
"They started the season, I think, pretty anxious," the coach said, "because after all, it's all about finally getting [a Western Mass. championship] done, so a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders on Sunday, huge. Let's face it, we don't see a whole lot of state finals. So for us, state semifinals kind of feels like gravy, because you can play relaxed, you know you're not expected to win. I think that's what you saw today, they played relaxed, they played excited, they played spirited. They played as a team today."
Heim also noted how proud he was of his team, and of his teammates that he has played with since he was a kid.
"Ever since we were six years old, we wanted to win states," Heim said. "Just to come this far, it shows how hard we've worked over the years. State semifinals are still pretty good for us, a small town with 60 kids per class, so I'm proud of all of us. I think we did all we could do to get to our goal."
Lenox 0 0 — 0
Bromfield 0 1 — 1
B — Ryell deRuijter (unassisted), 66:10.
Saves — L: Matt Tibbetts 5. B: Austin Franklin 3.
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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