H.S. Soccer: New goalie plays like veteran for Pioneer boys

  • Pioneer’s Jacob Quinn, left, cuts back with the ball against Greenfield’s Theo Popusoi in the first half Wednesday in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer’s Richie Kane, right, jumps to head the ball over Greenfield’s Theo Popusio in the first half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield’s Ricardo Romero, right, leaps to stop an incoming pass to Pioneer’s Noah Keith in the first half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer’s Felix Pruitt-Dahl, center, dribbles through a host of Greenfield defenders in the second half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield’s Theo Popusio takes a shot for a goal against Pioneer in the first half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer goalie Jacob Quinn pulls in a save against Greenfield in the first half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield’s Dante Ruggiano sends the ball downfield against Pioneer in the first half Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2019 10:19:14 PM
Modified: 9/18/2019 10:38:47 PM

GREENFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Regional boys soccer team held a 2-1 lead halfway through the second half, but gave Greenfield a golden opportunity to even the score up. 

The Green Wave drew a penalty in the box, putting Dante Ruggiano at the line for a penalty kick, with only Panther goalie Ryan Potter standing in the way of a tie game. 

For Potter, Wednesday’s contest marked the sophomore’s first game in net, as he made the switch to goal this year and had missed the start of the season due to a thumb injury. 

In his first action, he couldn’t have been given a larger task. 

“I was just open minded about it,” Potter said. “Just stay aggressive and guess one way.

He guessed Ruggiano would go left, and he did just that, as Potter extended to the left as soon as the ball was stuck and kept it out of the net to preserve the lead, allowing Pioneer to go on and eventually earn a 3-1 victory  in a McGrath League game played at Greenfield High School. 

“That was the turning point,” Green Wave coach Andy Rup said. “I’ll put Dante up there every single time because he’ll make that one. We hit that it’s 2-2 and it changes the whole game.”

Potter noticed how Ruggiano was positioning himself to take the penalty kick, allowing him to make an educated guess on where the ball would end up. 

“I try to look for where he’s looking with his eyes and where he’s angling his body for the kick,” Potter said. “It just happened to work out that time.”

Greenfield looked to knot it back up just a few minutes later, as Ricardo Romero lasered a shot from outside the box that went off the top of the extended goal post on the Greenfield High School field, bouncing into the net but being deemed out of play as the extended goal post is ruled out of play. 

Minutes later, the Panthers struck again to put the game out of reach, as Noah Keith threaded a pass into the box between two Green Wave defenders, hitting Sam Cahill perfectly in stride who buried the shot to make it a 3-1 game.

 “We got out to a slow start,”  Pioneer coach Don Fraser said, “but our decision making was much better today. Early in the season, it’s a work in progress, moving guys around. I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there and working. They just kept grinding.”

The Panthers got the scoring stated in the sixth minute, with Jason Quinn collecting a loose ball in the box before dishing it to Daniel Doncev, who put it home to put Pioneer up early. 

Greenfield answered in the 19th minute, as Ruggiano got the ball at midfield, took a few dribbles in and shot a ball to the streaking Theo Popusio, who got behind the Panther attack and put the ball into the left corner of the net for the Green Wave’s first goal of the season. 

Ruggiano typically plays in the midfield, but Rup moved him up to use his athleticism to generate scoring chances, which he did Wednesday. 

“We moved him up today to see if we could get a more push because of his speed,” Rup said. “He definitely has some speed up there.”

The Panthers took the lead early in the second half off a header from Keith, off a slicing pass from Brad Norwood, who put the ball in a perfect position for the taller Keith to elevate and finish. 

Through the early part of the season, Pioneer has dealt with injuries that have derailed what was lofty expectations for a team that made it to the Western Mass Div. 4 semifinals a year ago. 

Wednesday was the first game they had nearly their whole team back, and it showed on the pitch. 

“We had depth today,” Fraser said. “We got some people back today and we wore them out. It’s hard to compete with us when we can roll people out like that.”

With its talent assembled, the sky is the limit for the Panthers, who are feeling confident. 

“We’re going to go on a run,” Potter said. 

Pioneer and Greenfield are both off until next Tuesday, when the Panthers travel to Mahar and the Green Wave look to find the win column, taking on Granby at home. 

Pioneer 3, Greenfield 1









Goals: (P) Doncev, Keith, Cahill. (G) Popusio.

Assists: (P) Quinn, Norwood, Keith. (G) Romero.

Saves: (P) Potter 7. (G) Carballo 12.

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