By John Goralski
Nestled between a pair of lopsided victories, the Lady Knight field hockey team battled to a one goal loss to Nonnewaug. Southington opened the scoring. The teams were deadlocked through much of the second half. The Lady Knights owned the time of possession, but Nonnewaug managed to steal two opportunistic points and the win.
Sure, it was great to start the week with a 4-0 win over Fermi in the conference opener. Sure, it felt good to score a 9-1 win over Wethersfield on Friday to stay tied atop the conference standings.
But a one-goal loss against Nonnewaug? To battle in a game that the Knights should have or could have won? That might be the true measure for the Lady Knights as they surge to their best start in years.
“In the past, we’ve lost to Nonnewaug by two or three goals. One game we lost by six,” said Lady Knight field hockey coach Erin Luddy. “I’m still upset that it’s a loss, but it wasn’t a big loss.”
These days, the Knights are in uncharted waters. At 4-2, they need just five more points to secure a tournament bid. Usually, it’s the final weeks of the season when the Knights are calculating their chances. Now, it’s in week two.
Nonnewaug is a perennial postseason contender. They’ve won state titles. Over the past four seasons, they’ve advanced each year. Three years ago, they marched all the way to a semifinal berth.
This year, the Knights have closed the gap. They are battling on the turf against perennial powers in games that could go either way.
Games that used to be decided in the opening minutes are going down to the wire. Close rivalries are becoming blowouts, and Southington is scoring…and scoring…and scoring.
“We even had some great looks today,” Luddy said after the 2-1 loss to Nonnewaug. “We’ve been moving to the ball, and one of our strengths so far. We have a lot of people scoring. Our shots have been there. We just couldn’t find the cage today.”
That wasn’t the case against Fermi to start the week. Southington rallied for two goals i the first half and continued for two more after the break. Southington out-shot Fermi, 23-6. Natalie Liquindoli needed just four saves to secure her second shutout of the season.
Southington lost by one goal last season. Fermi has won every game since 2009, but the Lady Knights won easily this season with a 4-0 conference win.
“Last year, when we played them, we scored early and kind of got complacent,” said Luddy. “We sat back last year, so that was one of our goals this year. We wanted to keep attacking, and that’s what we did.”
Alli Abacherli and Isabella DiBattista scored one goal apiece in the first half. Kaylee Graef beat Fermi’s goalkeeper for a pair of second half scores. Micaela Falk and Jess Lee added assists as five different Knights contributed to the scoring attack.
“They’re passing. They’re seeing the entire field, and they’re noticing the spaces that they’re creating,” said Luddy. “It’s leading to more opportunities to shoot, and we’re scoring.”
Even in the loss, the Knights managed to control possession throughout much of the game. Kelsey Snodgrass assisted DiBattista to give the Knights the early lead, but Nonnewaug countered with a pair of opportunistic scores.
“They weren’t particularly strong shots, either, but that happens,” said Luddy. “We controlled the ball for a lot of the time, but I give Nonnewaug credit. Our girls had very good ball control, but there were a few times that the ball just didn’t go our way.”
Southington bounced back the next day with a 9-0 win in the road opener against winless Wethersfield (0-6). The victory pushed the Knights to 2-0 in the CCC East.
DiBattista scored a hat trick. Abacherli and Brooke Camden scored two goals apiece. Graef and Lee added solo shots, while Abacherli and Alexa Zborawski contributed assists.
Now, the Knights look to continue that momentum on the road with five of their next seven games away from their home field. The girls will host Conard (4-2-1) on Tuesday before traveling to Windsor (1-3-1) on Thursday to start a three-game trip.
“Our schedule gets tougher from here,” said Luddy, “but with the momentum from our first few weeks, I’m hoping that it carries us into this next stretch.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John Goralski