By BRIAN JENNINGS
It was a good start, not a great start. But whatever way you look at it, it was a win. That’s how Southington coach Mike Linehan viewed Friday’s season opener at Hall.
After a poor first half, the Knights managed to pull together as a team in the second half and edge one of their better opponents in the conference by a goal, 1-0, on the road.
“We learned that there are teams in this league that are going to recognize that we may be talented, but this league is talented,” the coach said. “If you only play 40 minutes, you’re going to find that you may be on the losing end of those battles. We have to be better prepared for 80 minutes.”
The Warriors controlled possession of the ball in the first half. A tremendous amount of pressure from Hall’s defense forced Southington to play unsettled, not allowing the Knights a single shot on goal in the first half.
About five minutes into the game, the Warriors hit the inside left post of the goal. The ball rolled completely behind Southington goalie Olivia Sherwood across the goal line and came out the right side of the goal.
“We were not handling that type of pressure very well,” said Linehan. “That was for a number of reasons, but one most importantly was that we were away, and it was our first game.”
Both teams went into halftime scoreless, but the Knights came out in the second half and flipped the switch. The Warriors could hardly get the ball out of their own end as the Knights dominated possession of the ball, outshooting the Warriors, 15-0.
“At halftime, we did make some adjustments,” the coach said. “I saw that their formation was a very aggressive formation, and I made some adjustments to what we were doing and thinking. The second half was a complete change.”
About 17 minutes into the second half, Natalie Verderame broke through Hall’s defense, came down the left side of the field, got to the end line, and served the ball into the penalty box. Kelly Doyle scored the game-winning goal off a one-timer into the corner of the net.
“Kelly’s energy and experience certainly was the result of the two of them connecting with each other,” said Linehan. “They’re best of friends, and the chemistry between the two of them is something to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing it continue to develop over the course of the year.”
The Knights will be back on the turf next week when they welcome in divisional Conard (1-0) on Tuesday, Sept. 12 and Maloney (0-1) on Friday, Sept. 15 for their first home contests of the season.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/09/12/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-sept-15-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.