By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knight soccer team split the week with a home win and a road loss, but a 3-2 victory at the start of the week clinched a Class LL tournament berth for the second-straight year.
“It’s obviously the first goal on the table,” said Southington coach Dave Yanosy. “Last year, we qualified really early, but this year was relatively early. Having been around for a long time, I don’t take that lightly because I’ve had years where we didn’t make the tournament. So it’s a big deal. Now we just have to go to work and do as much damage as we can over the last five games to get as good of a seed as we possibly can.”
Last year, Southington’s postseason run was bitter sweet. They qualified for last year’s state tournament for the first time since 2010, but a controversial loss to Bridgeport Central in the second round ended their run. Bridgeport Central was disqualified later in the tournament after one of its players was ruled ineligible for competing in a league outside of the CIAC.
Now, the Knights have a chance to erase those memories, punching their ticket on Tuesday with a one-goal victory, 3-2, at Bulkeley.
Colin Burdette scored the game’s first goal and put the Knights on the board at the four-minute mark in the first half. Alexis Frausto extended Southington’s lead to two with a score in the second half, but Bulkeley cut the lead to one, 2-1, with a goal moments later. However, Burdette capped off the win by hitting the back of the net for the second time late in the second half. The Bulldogs attempted another comeback, but their efforts were held to just one goal. Elijah Rodriguez, Ronaldo Nieto, and Daniel Topper contributed with assists.
Southington took 15 shots on goal and two corner kicks. Evan Daddona saved three of Bulkeley’s five shots on goal.
The Knights returned home a few days later and suffered their second shutout of the season, falling short to Farmington, 1-0. The Indians are currently tied for second in the CCC and tied for fourth in Class LL.
“I told the guys that we executed the game plan really well,” said Yanosy. “Obviously Farmington is a really good team, but we knew that in a game like this that defending was going to be part of the deal.”
Farmington controlled the possession of the ball in most of the first half—hitting the goalpost early on and scoring the lone goal of the game early in the first half—but Southington dominated possession of the ball in the second half.
“We dropped another player into the midfield pretty much after they scored their first goal,” the coach said. “That’s where the run of the play was coming from. They were dominating the middle, so we needed a little extra help in there. We stayed like until about 20 minutes left. I told the guys to keep it right here at 1-0 for the next 20 to 25 minutes.”
In the latter part of the second half, the Knights started to press their players forward, and at about 10 minutes remaining in the game, they pressed them even more forward.
“In turn, we were able to generate three really good scoring opportunities down the stretch,” said Yanosy. “It’s just unfortunate that we were unable to capitalize on one of them. But it was valiant effort, and I was extremely proud of the way they battled. They responded well to giving up the goal, stuck with the plan, and competed for the whole 80 minutes.”
Southington’s first scoring opportunity came midway through the second half when Burdette won the ball down in the corner of Farmington’s territory. Burdette played the ball across the field and Colaccino came flying in for a siding volley that landed dead square in the Farmington goalie’s mitts.
“If that ball went anywhere else, it probably would have gone in the goal,” the coach said. “It was a great effort by Colin to get there and a great run by Joe as well just to be in that position.”
Later in the half, Topper presented two more scoring opportunities for the Knights on corner kicks. However, Topper’s first kick to Rodriguez was cleared, deflecting wide and missing the goalpost by inches. Topper’s second kick was cleared in succession off of a defending Farmington player standing in front of the goal.
Southington took 10 shots on goal—two in the first half—and two corner kicks. Daddona saved eight of Farmington’s 16 shots on goal.
“Evan did a great job,” said Yanosy. “He’s been great all year. He’s a phenomenal keeper. He makes the saves that you’re supposed to make, and he makes a few that you’re probably not supposed to make. He reads the game well and does a great job of keeping us in it.”
Southington is currently 6-4-1 overall and 2-4-1 in the CCC Central Blue. With five games left in the regular season, the Knights will look to improve their seeding in the state tournament this week with games against Manchester (9-2-1) and Middletown (1-7-2).
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