WILLIAMSTOWN -- With what is undoubtedly the most beautiful goal scored in Berkshire County this season, Nathan Majumder broke through against a packed-in Athol defense and propelled the Mount Greylock boys' soccer team to a 3-0 Western Massachusetts Division II tournament first round win over visiting Athol on Saturday night.
Majumder had already hit the right and left post on two direct kicks. Neither went in. But off a set piece from the right flank, he finally found the back of the net.
Benni McComish sent a perfect ball into the box. Grant Raphael tried to flick the ball to the back post with his head, but missed. The ball didn't miss him, though, skimming off his upper back and buying Majumder time to turn his body and get his feet set. Then in one quick motion, Majumder put himself horizontal in midair, allowing him to complete perhaps the most difficult play in soccer -- a bicycle kick. He caught the ball square and drilled it past keeper Garrett Hall with 12 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half.
"Every once in a while in practice [I practice it]," he said of the bicycle kick. "It's one of those things you joke about, almost. I knew I can connect on one. I've tried them earlier in the year ... but nothing close to going in.
"I didn't really think about it; it was kind of in the moment."
The room he created for that kick was about as much space as he saw for the first 60 minutes. Athol pulled its best
Many times this season, Greylock has been allowed to attack vertically up the middle. The three central midfielders control the middle and advance the ball to Majumder straight down the middle. The Mounties quickly found out that method was not going to work, and coach Blair Dils reinforced the issue from the sideline through the first 20 minutes.
"If they're going to pull [Bradley Bousquet] back and man-mark [Majumder], then it's going to be clogged up in the middle," Dils said. "So we tried to swing the ball. ... If we can swing it and suck one of their defenders out, we can play underneath to Nathan running in on a good angle or Felix [Kershaw] or Benni running in on good angles from there."
Said Kershaw, "I just think we weren't thinking [early about playing outside first]."
When Majumder did find himself with space, he took advantage. Off a throw in, Majumder was fed the ball in the middle from the outside. He turned, took a couple touches and drew three defenders toward him. Instead of trying a shot, he played a ball to Ian Brink behind the defenders, putting him in all alone on the keeper. A nice finishing touch inside the left post gave Greylock a little breathing room with only 17:01 left.
"There was nobody on Ian," Majumder said. "Their center back was coming toward me, thought I was going shoot it, and Ian was wide open, no one even close to him."
From the outset, Athol made it known that it's strategy was to play physical. The Red Raiders never let up, and Majumder was receiving the brunt of the abuse.
At one point, the captain's band he wears around his right biceps was ripped off. The physicality came to a head when Majumder was hauled down from behind in the 18-yard box, awarding him a penalty kick. He calmly placed the ball inside the left post with 3:18 remaining to secure the win.
"Obviously you want to complain, shove them back," Majumder said. "But after a while you realize they're just going to keep doing it, and you just got to shove them off and keep playing your game."
The Mounties now play No. 5 Monson at home today at 6 p.m.
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On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh