By BRIAN JENNINGS
Coming into the game, Southington coach Erin Luddy said that she didn’t know too much about Newtown, but she knew that they were coming from a strong South West Conference (SWC). Newtown’s postseason prowess was evident by the simple fact that only four out of the SWC’s 14 teams missed field hockey state tournaments.
“In all tournament games like that when you’re dealing with lower seeds, that team could be one of the best teams in their league,” said Luddy. “Their record might not necessarily speak volumes about who they are.”
Southington’s seven-game winning streak and season ended on Monday, Nov. 6 after the 14th-seeded Lady Knights were upset, 4-0, by the 19th-seeded Nighthawks at home in the qualifying round of the Class L tournament. Prior to Monday’s game, the last time the Knights played a Class L tournament game was in 2014 when they fell, 2-0, to Newtown in the qualifying round at home. Both teams garnered the same seeds, and Southington finished the regular season that year with the same overall record. Newtown finished the 2014 regular season at 7-9.
Newtown scored the first goal of Monday’s game less than nine minutes into the contest, heading into the second half with a slim 1-0 lead. As opposed to previous years, the Knights had prided themselves on overcoming adversity when either being down or tied in games for most of this season, and Luddy’s halftime speech was nothing new to the team.
“We had been in that situation before when we’ve been down, and we continued to fight,” the coach said. “That was not new territory for us. We knew we could compete, and there were opportunities that we just had to take advantage of.”
The Nighthawks capped off the victory with three scores in the second half, as the first two goals of the second half came within the first 10 minutes.
Although they struggled to break into the offensive circle, the Knights still managed scoring opportunities. However, Luddy said that the team grew frustrated when they couldn’t capitalize on the few opportunities they did get.
“We just couldn’t finish, and Newtown had a very strong, defensive girl back there who just kind of took the ball away every single time,” said Luddy. “They were very good about bringing the ball down the sides. Their transition game was on, and ours was faltering.”
Maddie Belfonti saved five of Newtown’s nine shots in the cage. Southington took eight shots on goal and 14 penalty corners.
The Knights finished the season at 10-7. Considering where the team was at the midpoint of the season, sitting at 3-5, Luddy said that ending the regular season with a seven-game winning streak that featured three overtimes was fantastic.
There were a lot of ups to the season, despite being ousted early in the postseason. Luddy said that the biggest thing the team is going to carry into next season is that they can compete with some of the top teams in the state.
“Building off of that and just getting stronger with each year will be a great thing,” the coach said. “I think the Avon win definitely put a little bit of, ‘We could do this,’ in us. It’s not just where we finished, but how we finished, and I know the girls are proud of that.”
Southington is losing the following 10 seniors to graduation after this season: Madeline Belfonti, Molly Dobratz, Brooke Garcia, Jenna Garcia, Lauren Graef, Nicole Martocchio, Julia McPherson, Jessica Pesce, Sydney Rice, and Brittney Sao. The loss marked the end of the 2017 season.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/13/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-nov-17-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.