LUDLOW — The Division I Western Mass quarterfinal between Pittsfield and Ludlow wasn’t a home game for the Generals on paper.
However, by the way PHS treated Lusitano Stadium Monday evening, it might as well have been. The No. 5 Generals, who previously won the Valley’s summer league tournament on that same artificial turf, dominated play en route to a 4-1 victory over the No. 4 Lions.
“This is what we stand for. 13 seniors, last year was a tragedy and we don’t want that to be us,” said senior Evan Dempsey. “It’s not a luck factory, but this field is a bit of a good luck charm. ’This is our field not there’s,’ that’s what we were saying on the bus.”
Pittsfield appeared to be the team with the turf advantage, flying to balls and playing the bounces far better than their favored opponent. The Generals climbed ahead 3-0 before halftime, and save for a five minute lull to open the second half, controlled possession throughout the postseason contest.
“This was the field we won the summer league final, we kind of dub it our own field. The speed just came from us wanting it,” said Rich. “We have 13 seniors, so more than winning this game, we just couldn’t lose it. We couldn’t let our season end tonight. That made us sharper and faster to balls.”
Dempsey led the way for PHS, recording a pair of goals and assisting on the Generals first score.
In the 13th minute, Dempsey took on two defenders into the box, managing to tap a pass beyond them that landed on the foot of oncoming Grady Pedersen. The Ludlow keeper dove at the pass, leaving Pedersen an open net to fill and put the Generals up 1-0.
With 14:19 to play in the half, Dempsey took a pass in stride from Jackson Rich, beat a man one-on-one and punched a shot by the goalie for a 2-0 edge.
“Something about Evan against Valley teams. He was on tonight,” said Rich. “He has teammates on the other team and I think he likes to show off for them.”
The Pittsfield senior wasn’t finished, saving his best for later in the half. At 7:15, a ball bounded toward him just outside the center of the box. Dempsey angled his body and caught the ball in mid-air, one-timing a liner into of the back of the net.
“The first one was better, the second one was kind of luck. The first one I saw [Rich] was going to let it go over, and I felt the defender on my right side, and I thought I could turn inside, so that’s what I did and found a wide open lane,” said Dempsey. “The second one was a kind of English volley, I jumped up and I thought it was going to go about 40 yards over the net, but it ended up dipping down. I was surprised.”
Ludlow opened the second half as expected, with a flurry of energy and scoring chances. The Lions renewed their pressure on the Generals defense and goalkeeper Jon Bile. An early ball went the length of the Pittsfield box, but nobody was home to finish. Another shot drilled a post at 34:17.
That stretch prompted Antil to call a timeout.
“We survived getting hammered on for five minutes, but didn’t break,” said Rich. “Coach called a time out to resettle things, and once we scored that goal, that was it. That was the killer.”
Less than a minute after play resumed, Rich struck with a calming goal. Despite the Lions controlling possession at the outset of the half, the Generals had withstood the tide and added another insurance goal in the process.
Bile and a defense led by seniors Quinn Matthews, Max Tabakin and Jesse Kramer, took care of the rest. Bile finished with eight saves, while sophomore Patrick Silva made some huge stops at right fullback.
“Great to get a win, our season isn’t over. This is the team to go all the way, and that’s what we plan to do,” said Antil.