Published: 9/14/2022 9:16:38 PM

Modified: 9/14/2022 9:16:08 PM

NORTHAMPTON – It took Northampton less than 60 seconds to get on the board against Smith Academy on Wednesday.

After the home team flew up the field to the offensive zone, they threw the ball to the front of the net and crashed in for the rebound. Junior Rozlyn Kaufman got the ball from Izzy Epstein and put the ball past Falcons goalie Hadley Syznal to make it 1-0 just 57 seconds in the game.

Just over 90 seconds later, Kaufman stepped up yet again for Northampton, scoring the team’s second goal of the game 2:28 into the contest and forcing a Smith Academy timeout.

“(We had) quick passes, quick, precise passes,” Kaufman said on her team’s hot start. “We’re just working together really well. I think just in general, our passing is great. Our communicating is great. And I just think we’re all like it’s really tight knit.”

Smith Academy responded in the second half of the contest, but at that point it was too little, too late; Northampton earned a 6-2 victory against the Falcons.

The team’s fast start against Smith Academy mirror its season thus far – the Blue Devils have cruised to a 4-0 record, outscoring their opponents 19-3 and picking up two shutouts in the process. Second-year Northampton varsity head coach Meshia Begin is seeing her team step up after four years of playing for her; before she took the varsity job, she worked with the junior varsity team.

“These seniors were my freshmen,” Begin said. “So for them to come up for the last four years and just (be) working well together, and knowing how to use each other and space – it’s just really exciting to see them play so well.”

It wasn’t just Begin’s upper classmen that were working well together. Wednesday’s game saw a lot of the team’s junior varsity players get playing time at the varsity level. It paid off for Northampton, when sophomore JV player Maya Berman-Lagier scored back-to-back goals to double Northampton’s lead in the second quarter, both unassisted.

Smith Academy head coach Judy Strong wasn’t happy with her team’s first half performance. She knew Northampton was coming out hard, but that her team could step up and keep pace with them.

“We came out flat. We just dug ourselves a hole and we played terrible in the first two periods and they played great. They just went to the ball harder and put it in the circle and put it in the goal,” Strong said. “(At halftime) I said this is what we need to do, make your choice and they stepped up. So I really was pleased with three and four. I felt like that’s the team that’s starting to emerge.”

The response was immediate in the second half. Smith Academy came out looking much faster and more aggressive, pushing down to their end of the field and defending well. They kept Northampton off the board on their second corner of the game, and goalie Syzal made a good save shortly after. Seventh-grader Jillian Lavellee, playing in her first game for the Falcons, was the player that broke through for the visitors, scoring 6:34 into the third quarter to make it 4-1; Lavallee’s goal was also the first goal that the Falcons had scored all season.

Northampton answered back with a goal that was credited to Pearl Davis but went off one of the Smith Academy players in a clearing attempt. With Northampton leading 5-1 going into the final frame, the Falcons chipped away at their opponents’ lead again, perfectly executing a drawn up play on a corner attempt. Alexa Jagodzinski was at the post to jam the ball past Northampton goalie Katie James and make it 5-2.

Zoey Ames closed out the scoring for the home squad, scoring Northampton’s sixth goal to secure the win in the fourth period.

While the Blue Devils celebrate their win, they’re also looking ahead to their next game against Westfield on Friday. Westfield is also undefeated so far with a 3-0 record, and hasn’t allowed a goal yet this year

“I think what I’m looking forward to this season is (that) we’ve got some competition coming up with Westfield and East Longmeadow – so can we stick with it? Can we continue to be smart and connected and trust each other?” Begin said.

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