By John Goralski
Erin Luddy tried to conceal her excitement as she gathered her field hockey team at the half. The Lady Knights had surged to a 2-0 lead over Farmington off a penalty corner and an all out blitz with eight minutes to go before the break. Now, Luddy said, it was time for the defense.
There was no talk about upsets. There were no quiet whispers about Cinderella wins. The Lady Knights are in uncharted waters this fall, bit they seem to be taking it in stride. Farmington’s powerhouse program was just the latest in a long line of victims.
But after the game, Luddy admitted that this 2-0 victory was extra sweet.
“The seniors were really upset about last year’s loss to Farmington in overtime, and I could see that it was on their minds. We came out really hard and really strong. We scored in the first six minutes of the game, and that was a great boost for us,” she said. “We’ve played a lot of quality opponents and teams in the top 10. We lost 1-0, 2-1. To finally come out on top is going to give us a lot of motivation going into next week.”
The offense did their part early. With just six minutes off the clock, Isabella DiBattista threaded a pass to the top of the circle with a surgeon’s precision. Lauren Zazzaro blasted it off a defender’s stick and into the cage. With eight minutes left in the opening half, the Lady Knights struck again. This time DiBattista fed Kelsey Snodgrass for the score.
In years past, an early lead might have caused Luddy anxiety as Southington struggled for to earn an upset. This year, it was Farmington that fell back on their heels. The Lady Knight midfielders maintained possession throughout the contest, and the defense allowed just one Farmington shot to secure the win.
“We know that we can compete. We know that we are one of the better teams in the state,” said Luddy. “We’re playing some good teams from our past, but now we know that—when we step out on the field—we’re as good as anybody. We know it’s going to be a win.”
Even the 4-0 loss to Simsbury at the start of the week was a sign that Southington has arrived. The No. 2 Trojans have dismantled teams throughout the season with eight shutouts in nine attempts. Four wins have been by seven goals or more, but with 10 minutes elapsed in the second half, Simsbury was clinging to a slim, 1-0 lead.
Natalie Liquindoli made 17 saves to keep the Knights in the game.
“We hung with them the whole first half. We had our opportunities. If we were able to score, that would have changed the whole momentum of the game,” said Luddy. “We know that we can hold our own with those teams in the top 10. We’re starting to see the possibilities for us.”
Southington needs just one more victory to secure a postseason berth, and that should come this week with games against East Catholic (2-7-1) and NW Catholic (6-3). But Luddy is already looking past that. With five games left, the Knights (6-4) could reach double-digit victories in the regular season for the first time.
Three of Southington’s four losses have come against the top three teams in the Class L standings. The fourth came against a Class S powerhouse, and two of those losses were decided by just one goal.
It’s no longer a daydream. It’s become a reality, and Luddy expects that the best is yet to come.
“Our goal isn’t just to make tournament. It’s to get a home game, and we’re working really hard to get it,” she said. “We still have five more games. Our objective is that home game, and we want to win them all.”
Don’t bet against them.
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By John Goralski