SPRINGFIELD – Logan Graves of Smith Academy had the second half of the Western Mass. Class D Boys Soccer Championship game on Sunday was the chance of a lifetime and made sure she capitalized on it.
The No. 3 Falcons were tied 1-1 with eighth seed Mt. Everett when Smith Academy’s Riley Intrator was fouled just outside the box with 23 minutes and 45 seconds to go.
The ball was placed in the center and Graves went to perform the kick. The opening game required a pass, but Graves saw an opening, deflected a shot past the wall and into the net to give the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
The Eagles couldn’t find the equalizer late as Smith Academy won the Class D championship thanks to a 2-1 final in a game at Pope Francis High School.
“We called out a game that we wanted to play with that positioning,” said Graves. “I didn’t think the distance was there. I saw a small opening and turned it past the wall. I did something similar against Hopkins [in the semifinals] so i knew what to do. It felt great. I knew it was working the second I shot it. They have a great goalkeeper who played great so I wasn’t one hundred percent sure he would get in, but I knew he had a chance. ”
Smith Academy (12-5-2) worked all season to win a Western Mass. Title. Coach Jason Duncan said he was proud of the way his team struggled throughout the season to achieve that goal.
“I told these guys before the season started that our goal was to be better at the end than at the beginning,” said Duncan. “We are. If you do all the hard work, you might as well get it paid off. We worked hard all season and it paid off.”
After the Falcons took the lead in the second half, Mt. Everett (2-15-2) came with the biggest boost of the game. The Eagles earned several late corners but failed to capitalize.
The best chance of a tie was 10 minutes before the end of the game, but Michael Ullrich’s shot went just over the crossbar. Ullrich had another drive from the outside edge of the box in the final minutes, but Smith Academy goalie Ryan Belina was there to make his sixth save of the competition.
“We struggled to be offensive and break your line of defense,” said Mt. Everett trainer Joe McSpiritt. “Your goalkeeper made a couple of saves. We couldn’t put the ball in the net. “
After holding up Hopkins Academy in the second half of the semifinals last week, the Falcons were prepared for the Eagles’ advance on Sunday.
Intrator had the chance to make it 3-1 with 3:50 on the clock, but Mt. Everett keeper Michael Devoti made his sixth save of the game to keep his roster alive.
“We were a pass-away in the second half,” said Duncan. “They had a riot late there where they put something under pressure on us. We lasted longer against Hopkins this Thursday. We’ve been there before and knew how to take the blows and keep playing. “
In the first few minutes, both teams used their chances to score.
Just four minutes after kick-off, Intrator sent a pass across the box to Ben Hudzik, and the runner-up found the back of the net to give Smith Academy an early 1-0 lead.
Intrator had a 2-0 chance a minute later after falling behind the Eagle defense on a breakaway, but Devoti had a big save. Mt. Everett quickly moved the ball up, where Ullrich swung a pass into the penalty area to Diego Cruz, who ended the game to 1-1 with 33:41 in the first half.
The goal showed that the Eagles would not give up after the early Falcons goal.
“We played hard,” said McSpiritt. “We gave up the early goal, but fought back. I thought we played hard the whole game, we just couldn’t finish it. “
Duncan was pleased with his team’s reaction after Mt. Everett equalized the game.
“It was good to start scoring,” said Duncan. “I would have preferred not to have given up a quick goal after that. But we survived it. We didn’t break and it didn’t kill us. In the whole year we haven’t lost a game in which we scored two goals and we managed to score two goals. ”
The Smith Academy is now awaiting their opponent in the MIAA Div. 5th national tournament. The Falcons were number 25 in the most recent rankings, although the official seeds are expected to be announced on Tuesday.