Soccer battles back into the hunt: Lady Knights win 3 out of 4 to keep playoff hopes alive

Kelly Doyle leads an offensive charge during a 1-0 win over New Britain to start the week.

Kelly Doyle leads an offensive charge during a 1-0 win over New Britain to start the week.

By BRIAN JENNINGS
STAFF WRITER

For two halves of regulation and most of the double overtime competition, the Lady Knights took turns shooting at the goal but just couldn’t find the net. But with time winding down in the second overtime period, the ball was getting batted around by the defense and New Britain’s goalie had to come out to make a save.

The rebound seemed to bounce harmlessly back to midfield, but Taylor Hubert seized the opportunity. She dribbled just past midfield, chipped the ball over the heads of everyone in New Britain’s zone, and landed the ball at the back corner of the goal.

Taylor Hubert takes a shot against New Britain. Hubert scored the game winner.

Taylor Hubert takes a shot against New Britain. Hubert scored the game winner.

Hubert’s game-winning score broke a scoreless tie, and gave the Lady Knight soccer team (4-6-1, 0-4-1 in division) a 1-0 win over New Britain on Monday, Oct. 5.

The win sparked the best week of Southington’s season, as the girls went 3-1 on the week to pull within two wins of qualifying for the postseason.

“We played a much better, improved New Britain team,” said Southington coach Mike Linehan. “I think that he [Margaret Coates] has done an exceptional job with that group. If you look at player development, I was very pleased with my youngsters, who really stepped up today. I had the two freshmen starting, Natalie Verderame and Kelly Doyle. My sophomore group also came up big today. Melissa Drexler was terrific in the midfield, along with Kristina Linehan and Taylor Hubert.”

Abby Connolly centers the ball.

Abby Connolly centers the ball.

In overtime, Linehan said that he switched his formation to a 3-3-4, having four forwards up front.

“I don’t know if that’s the reason we scored, but I felt that holding a little more possession with one more option up front was what we were looking for,” said Linehan. “Emily Maciejewski is one of our backs and I moved her up front. Rylee Van Epps was up front for the first overtime period and Emily finished off for the second.”

The Knights took 25 shots on goal and four corner kicks. Janelle Mangassarian saved both of New Britain’s two shots on goal.

“We have to get on track offensively,” said Linehan. “Tonight we took more than 20 shots. That’s more shots than we’ve had probably all year long combined. You don’t score if you don’t get opportunity, and we had opportunity tonight. Can we create those same options and opportunities when we play some of the better teams? You hope that what we create here is a level of confidence with each other.”

The next day, on Tuesday, the Knights built on their win with another when they traveled to Weaver (1-10-0), 4-0.

Kelly Doyle scored the Knights’ first goal just under two minutes into the game, assisted by Rylee Van Epps. Abby Connolly added another goal minutes later on a free kick. Alijah Vega scored midway through the period on a pass from Michaela Nanfito, and Caroline Kemnitz scored early in the second half on an assist by Jessica Howe.

The Knights took four shots on goal and one corner kick. Mangassarian saved both of Weaver’s two shots on goal.

Ariana Gazaferi kicks a corner kick.

Ariana Gazaferi kicks a corner kick.

A couple days later on Thursday, the Knights tried to make it three straight wins, but fell short when they hosted Conard (5-4-1, 2-1-1 in division) in a 4-0 loss.

Conard scored two goals in the first half and two in the second, one coming off of a penalty kick. The Knights took seven shots on goal and two corner kicks. Mangassarian saved 16 of Conard’s 20 shots on goal.

The Knights wrapped up their long week with a 5-0 win at Hartford Public on Saturday.

Amanda Thompson hit the back of the net first on an unassisted goal just over two minutes into the game, and Connolly scored moments later on another unassisted goal. Chelsea Coccoza set up Nikki Carter a couple minutes later with a goal. Carter returned to assist Hubert with a goal about 10 minutes into the first half. Alexa Imme scored the final goal of the day minutes later, unassisted.

The Knights took 18 shots on goal and seven corner kicks. Hartford Public did not take any shots on goal in the game.

With five games remaining in the regular season, the Knights will look to qualify for the state tournament when they hit the road for Simsbury (4-4-2) on Wednesday, Oct. 14 and Hall (5-4-2) on Friday.

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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