SENIOR CAPTAIN Ava Gamache tallied five saves in net during the fourth seeded girls’ soccer team’s 4-3 loss to South Hadley during the Division 4 state semifinals on Nov. 14. (Jamie Hayman Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
LEOMINSTER — The fourth seeded girls’ soccer team’s memorable Division 4 state tournament run came to a close after the Pioneers fell 4-3 in penalty kicks to number one seed South Hadley during the state semifinals at Doyle Field on Nov. 14.
“It was a great run,” said Pioneers head coach Mark Vermont. “We had a great season. It was a great accomplishment for the girls to make it to the Division 4 state semifinals. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The Pioneers (17-3-2) stormed back three times against the Tigers during the D4 state semifinals. South Hadley’s Lauren Marjanski gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead four minutes into the first half.
Undaunted, junior midfielder Emma Rose knotted the score 1-1 after drilling a shot off a corner kick with 19 minutes remaining in the opening frame.
“It was a great goal,” said Vermont. “Emma’s corner kick deflected off of a South Hadley player’s head and went in.”
With the game tied 1-1, Marjanski scored her second goal 22 minutes into the second half.
Junior forward Bella Carroll tied the game 2-2 after finding the back of the net after Rose had a perfectly timed corner kick with 16 minutes remaining in the second half.
“Emma took the corner, Bella ran to the ball and flicked it in,” said Vermont.
Marjanski finished with a hat trick after scoring with six minutes remaining in the second half, giving the Tigers a 3-2 advantage.
With the Pioneers’ backs against the wall, senior captain/midfielder Ally Sykes tied the game 3-3 after scoring on a penalty kick with three minutes remaining in the game. She took the penalty kick after freshman midfielder Giada Antidormi was fouled in the box.
“Ally showed a lot of guts by stepping up and making the penalty kick,” said Vermont.
After two scoreless 10-minute overtimes that were defensive battles between the Pioneers and Tigers, the Division 4 state semifinals came down to penalty kicks.
South Hadley converted on four penalty kicks, including one from goalie Drew Alley. Ally Sykes and her sister, sophomore forward/midfielder Bella Sykes, had their respective PKs saved by Alley. Junior midfielder Clara Caulfield converted on her PK.
Senior captain Ava Gamache finished with five saves in net against South Hadley.
Vermont praised the Pioneers’ resiliency against the Tigers.
“I am very proud of the girls for battling back three times against the number one seed,” said Vermont. “We just came up a little short. The girls played a great game, and I am very proud of them.”
The Pioneers will be graduating six seniors this year: Ally Sykes, Gamache, captain/defender Keely Briggs, forward Catie Kampersal, defender Addie Connelly and forward Megan Woods.
“The seniors, from the captains down, did a great job building team chemistry and leading the team all season,” said Vermont.
The Pioneers have a strong nucleus returning next fall that includes Carroll, Caulfield, Rose, junior defender Lily Rocco, junior defender Ariana Guarracino, junior defender Ella Hayman, junior defender Katie Connelly, junior midfielder/forward Morgan Hubbard, sophomore forward/midfielder Bella Sykes, sophomore forward/midfielder Hannah Ozanian, sophomore forward Ava Cook, freshman midfielder Giada Antidormi, freshman forward Kaylee Barrett, freshman defender Avery Haney and freshman forward Ava Damiani.
“The kids coming back have the blueprint for what it takes to win in the tournament,” said Vermont.