Kickin’ It

Southwick Rams

WESTFIELD – It may not have been a penalty kick, but it sure did have the effectiveness of one. That is, until the real one occurred nearly 60 minutes later.
No. 1 Belchertown scored in the opening minutes of the second half of the West Division 3 boys soccer championship on a virtual penalty kick Sunday at Westfield State University, but second-seeded Southwick forced overtime, where it actually did win on PKs, 5-4.
Austin Davis scored the fifth straight PK for Southwick to down Belchertown 2-1.
Davis’s shot smacked the underside of the right portion of the crossbar and ricocheted into the back of the net for the game-winner.
“I just walked up to the line,” Davis said. “I already had my corner picked and I just went for it. I took a deep breath and shot.”
There where several sighs of relief and jaw-dropping moments in the final minutes of regulation as three Southwick shots smacked the crossbar. Nick Brown’s found the back of the net when it grazed the upper post and went in with about 60 seconds left.
“Before (that score) I realized it was the last time we’d all play together,” Brown said. “I kind of wanted to step it up I guess.”
It was a guess from Southwick goalie Kyle Demaio that set up the game-winner. On the fourth penalty kick of the PK portion of overtime, Demaio made a diving stop on Michael Laughner’s shot that swung the balance of power.
Both teams had been perfect on PKs prior to that point.
“I was trying to pick which way to go,” Demaio said. “I was lucky I picked the right direction.”
Belchertown (16-2-3) directed the ball into the net just once in regulation, scoring 1:16 into the second half when Evan Fournier squeezed a low line drive through the Southwick defense untouched on a direct kick from 25 yards out.
The ball found a hole in Southwick’s wall, and sailed past the diving goaltender for Belchertown’s only goal of regulation time. The play was set up by a tripping call just outside the box, and while it did not result in a penalty kick, it was just as effective for Belchertown.
Each team had at least one opportunity to score in the first 10 minutes of the game. Southwick’s Austin Davis squeezed a bullet through traffic in the sixth minute. Nearly a minute later, the Rams turned away a Belchertown corner kick.
Midway through the half, a couple more chances arose. Southwick’s Timothy McGrath drilled the ball at the net but Belchertown’s goalie thwarted the shot. Another sixty seconds later, the Orioles had a corner kick pried away from Demaio.
Demaio made another nice play in the 23rd minute. Belchertown launched a floater into the box. The Orioles attempted to head it in but the Southwick keeper snatched it in mid-air.
Belchertown had an even greater opportunity a short time after on a corner kick, but the Southwick defense walled off the play to preserve the scoreless tie.
Demaio also corralled a free kick from Belchertown’s Evan Fournier in the closing seconds of the first half, setting up all the drama to come.
“I thought like any team when you give up a goal in the final which is often a one-goal game I thought there was a little bit of a sag,” Southwick coach Peter DeMello said. “But I think the nice part is just like Belchertown’s schedule, our schedule is so hard. We’re used to being in this kind of a situation so I think we were able to regroup and weather a couple of really good chances by Belchertown.”
“Belchertown is a great program,” DeMaio continued. “(Coach) Tony Almeida does exceptionally well. They could have done, I think, very well in the Western Mass D1 tournament. I thought today we were able to stay in the game and then our boys came through in the end and Kyle made a great save to give us a chance to win.”
Southwick (15-3-1) advances to Tuesday’s state Division 3 semifinal where it will take on Central Mass champ Nipmuc (18-2-2) at Assabet High School in Marlboro at 7 p.m.

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