Lenox boys soccer team blanks Drury to capture Western Mass. Division IV title
WESTFIELD — If the Lenox boys soccer team had any doubts about its ability to get over the hump and bring home a Western Massachusetts Division IV title after losing the last two straight, Mike Abdalla wiped them away with a goal just over two minutes into Sunday's contest against Drury.
By the time the second-seeded Millionaires were done on Alumni Field, they shipped four goals in the No. 4 Blue Devils' net, while on the other side of the pitch the team recorded a clean sheet for a 4-0 win, and the program's first Western Mass. title since 2011.
"This one, it's so much different. It's unbelievably different," Lenox senior Ian Laurin said. "The last two years were such a letdown, we've wanted it so much. You can only imagine what this feels like right now. It's crazy, it's unreal."
The No. 2 Millionaires put together the perfect game to finally end their championship drought. Two years ago, the Millionaires were handed a brutal 4-1 loss. Last year, the Millionaires left Alumni Field as penalty-kick losers.
Now, they hopped on the bus back to town with the right trophy in tow.
"I'm just over ecstatic with emotion. It feels so good," senior Nic Baruch said. "We've worked so hard this season, it's been in the back of our minds that we can win this. I think the last time Lenox had won a title is seven or eight years. We really wanted this. I'm so proud of my teammates. Everyone on that field worked so hard, everybody. We really brought it to them, and I'm very proud of how our team played."
Lenox (13-5-3) put up two goals in each half to secure the comfortable win. But against a Drury (13-8) team that has been defensively solid all season, Abdalla's opener was key to Lenox taking control of the contest. On the play, Baruch played the ball to Abdalla in the box. Abdalla then took a touch to put the ball around Drury goalie Corbin Rumbolt, before slotting home.
"Honestly, it felt so amazing," Abdalla said of the opening goal. "I've been on the team since a freshman, and in my freshman season I was the one who actually messed up in the semifinals, sophomore year we lost — we got killed by Monson — last year we lost to Monson in PKs, and this year we finally got the job done, and we started the scoring off early."
On the opposite sideline, the effects of Abdalla's opener were also apparent.
"Our goal was to defend as long as we could and get a counter," Drury coach John Jacobbe said. "When you give up that first goal, it takes your philosophy a little out of the game. It was a tough break. It was one we'd like to have back. The boys, we lost the ball in the midfield and we lost the ball in our box, the guys would like to have that back, and there's nothing you can do about it once the mistake happens."
Baruch doubled the lead in the 23rd minute, finishing a pass from Harrison Keator. That goal drew a Drury timeout to try and stem the tide. The break did settle things down for Drury, as neither side could find another tally in the first half. Drury also made a temporary goalie change during the timeout, sliding Max Daugherty into goal. Rumbolt re-entered 10 minutes later, and made two saves before the break.
The 2-0 lead, though, wasn't enough for Lenox.
With the game still in the balance, the insurance tally came in the 66th minute through Laurin. Laurin took a pass from Baruch and, at a very tight angle, lifted the ball into the net.
"No soccer coach can relax until the score is at least 3-0," Lenox coach Matt Cote said. "2-0 is a terrible score, because all it takes is one goal and anything can happen after that. I forget the timing of the third goal, but it was a good long while into the second half. But for our part, they were cracking and cracking and cracking."
Baruch rounded out the scoring in the 71st minute, getting on the end of a Zach Suffish cross. Baruch's first shot was saved by Rumbolt, but Baruch followed up and slammed in his second effort.
Drury's attempts at Matt Tibbetts' goal were minimal, although the Blue Devils never quit working for a score. Cove Massey, in particular, ran himself into the ground trying to get on the end of long balls forward, while Reece Racette and Connor Clark tried forcing the issue in midfield.
"We were in the ballgame against a team that a couple weeks ago we weren't in the ballgame at halftime," Jacobbe said, referencing a 7-1 loss in the regular season. "We just didn't create enough offense. I thought Lenox did a great job of controlling the midfield and controlling the ball in the air, and that was the difference. The better team won today."
When the final whistle finally blew, the relief and excitement on the Lenox sideline was apparent. The common refrain was "It's our time!" and how could anyone fault Lenox for feeling that way?
"Just getting the job done," Tibbetts said on what the biggest difference between this year and the last two years. "Last year, just so close, to lose in penalties, it feels good to get the job done and have my season keep going. I'm looking forward to states."
The state semifinals will be on Tuesday at Marlboro Middle School at 7 p.m.. The Millionaires will play Central Mass. champion Bromfield, which rolled through its sectional tournament. Bromfield won its three games by a combined score of 21-1, including a 6-1 win over Hopedale in the championship.
"I have no scouting report on Bromfield yet, except the MIAA web page which shows them winning handily," Cote said. "What's my message? That, no, we don't know them, you have to assume they are as good as any team we've faced. Let's try to make it as much about us as we can. If we can bring that brand of soccer to the semifinals [from today], we stand a good chance, and let's leave it out on the field."
And Cote's players are ready to do just that.
"It's everything, honestly," Laurin said of the season continuing. "We've been playing together as a team since we were four. We're a family out here, and to be able to move on and continue and have this pact together, it's everything. It's not a game, we're family, y'know?"
Drury 0 0 — 0
Lenox 2 2 — 4
L — Mike Abdalla (unassisted), 2:20. L — Nic Baruch (Harrison Keator), 22:41.
L — Ian Laurin (Baruch), 65:28. L — Baruch (Zach Suffish), 70:08.
Saves — D: Corbin Rumbolt 10 (70), Max Daugherty 0 (10). L: Matt Tibbetts 2.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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