By BRIAN JENNINGS
With a 7-0 win over East Hartford on Tuesday, the Lady Knight soccer team qualified for the Class LL tournament for the second-straight year. However, it was a game later in the week that had Southington coach Mike Linehan applauding his team’s chances in the postseason.
A goal-for-goal affair with the Trojans forced the Knights to settle for their first tie of the season, as Southington drew, 2-2, with Simsbury at home on Friday. Following the game, Linehan stated that senior day had always been a disappointment over the last three years and that he couldn’t remember the last time his team came back from being down against a quality team.
With Linehan at the helm, the Knights have had a history of struggling to overcome a deficit against a quality team. But against the Trojans, they overcame adversity twice.
“We got the equalizer twice, which is somewhat remarkable, based on the history of this group,” said Linehan. “For the four years since I’ve been involved, we have not done that. This is clearly a step in the right direction.”
While the Knights are now in the state tournament and currently have their sight set on fighting for higher seeding in the postseason, Linehan said that the Simsbury game is something the team is going to build upon.
“It tells me a lot about the character of this team,” the coach said. “In a tournament environment, it showed the girls that if we do get behind, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Following a scoreless first half, the Trojans got on the board first in the 55th minute. Katelin Isakoff lofted a pass up the field to Julia Jahrstorfer, who then dribbled into a one-on-one battle with a defender and curved the ball into the side netting of the goal on a deep shot from the right side of the penalty box.
“She hit a ball that was terrific,” said Linehan. “You only hit a few of those, and she really did find the net.”
Abby Sowa knotted the score in the 58th minute on a free kick from about 35 yards out that bounced through a crowd of players untouched. The goal was not only Sowa’s first goal of the season, but it was also her first goal as a varsity player.
“I questioned whether or not anyone touched the ball before it went in,” the coach said. “I asked a lot of people that said it was screened by many or they couldn’t see anything, but it just kept going and going. She deserved it though, and I’m proud of her.”
The Trojans regained the lead with a goal in the 62nd minute on a Kathryn Rutledge free kick that found an open Jordan Shugdinis for the score.
“This ball bounced around on a scramble, and I was quite disappointed that we didn’t knock that ball out,” said Linehan. “I saw a couple of our girls and thought that they could have been a little bit more aggressive. We cannot allow a ball to be bouncing around in our box and is an area that we have to fix.”
Southington answered again though. After a header was blocked in the penalty box off a corner kick in the 71st minute, Nikki Carter came down with the rebound and netted the equalizer through a crowd of players that shielded the goalie.
“It was very similar to their second goal and was a bit of a scramble in front,” the coach said. “It was a great effort by Nikki and a number of players to keep that ball alive on a few rebounding shots.”
The Knights took 13 shots on goal. Olivia Sherwood saved 11 of Simsbury’s 14 shots on goal.
Southington held a slim 1-0 lead at halftime of their home contest against East Hartford few days earlier on Tuesday. But the Knights turned it on in the second half with six goals and qualified for the state tournament by rolling in their fourth-straight win and seventh shutout of the season, blanking the Hornets, 7-0.
Shannon Litchfield marshaled the offense with three goals and an assist. Natalie Verderame contributed with two assists and a goal. The Knights took 21 shots on goal and held the Hornets to just two shots on goal.
The Knights will be back on the turf this week when they travel to Avon (1-9) on Monday, Oct. 16 and then return home to host Hartford Public (1-10) on Friday, Oct. 19. Southington is currently 7-3-1.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/10/17/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-oct-20-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.