By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Lady Knights didn’t go quietly. After the girls soccer team rallied to a convincing 2-0 win over Manchester on Sept. 17 at rainy Fontana Field, they took a perennial power down to the wire before succumbing on the road.
Southington lost their first game of the season, but the loss drove home the point that the Knights have become a force to reckon with.
The Knights began the week with a scrappy victory to improve to 4-0. It was the first time since 2004 that Southington had started a season with four consecutive wins. The Lady Knights were 3-0-1 through four games in 2005.
The Lady Knights moved the ball with purpose, used the whole field and were in sync on and off the ball.
“I hadn’t seen a lot of that this year yet, and it started to come,” coach Mike Linehan said. “For that reason, I thought this was the best of their four games, because I thought it looked like we have been playing together. It’s been taking a while, a team that is so young, still coming together.”
Southington picked up a goal with 32:12 left in the first half. Abby Sowa found Alli Carr, then Carr dribbled in and fired a left-footed shot into the goal. The Lady Knights spaced the field well, creating lanes for Carr and others to attack the goal. Southington outshot Manchester 20-2 and had three corners to none for the visitors.
“As a coach, I have to ask are we getting better opportunities, and I think we are,” Linehan said
Southington had some more opportunities after Carr’s goal, but didn’t cash in until Maya Wroblewski put a left-footed grounder past the Manchester keeper into the net with 12:55 to go until halftime.
In the second half, several Lady Knight shots hit the frame of the goal or just missed wide. More important to Linehan was the movement and cohesiveness displayed by his team.
“Hopefully what we saw will continue,” Linehan said.
The cohesiveness was also there on the back end, which allowed the defense and keeper Olivia Sherwood to pitch four shutouts in four games.
“I can’t say enough about how we’re defending,” Linehan said.
The celebration was short-lived. On Friday, Sept. 21, Southington saw its undefeated run end in a tough 1-0 road loss in Glastonbury, but it took the Tomahawks everything they had to edge the Lady Knights with a penalty kick. Southington matched the perennial power throughout most of the game.
Sam Forrest scored on a penalty kick about 23 minutes into the first half for Glastonbury. It was the first goal Southington had allowed this season.
“It was a good shot by Glastonbury, but Olivia Sherwood got two hands on it and almost pushed it out,” Linehan said.
Keeper Maddie Gehrhardt (six saves) and the Tomahawk defense made the lead stand up the rest of the way. Glastonbury had an 8-6 advantage in shots and a 2-1 edge in corners. In the second half, the Tomahawks dropped most of their players back and made it difficult for the Lady Knights to get into their zone.
“It was a close game for 80 minutes,” Linehan said. “Both teams had their opportunities throughout the game.”
Sherwood made eight saves for Southington.
“We knew this game was going to be tough and we would learn a lot about ourselves and use it towards making us better going forward,” Linehan said.
Linehan feels Southington has closed the gap on Glastonbury after back-to-back years of 1-0 defeats. The loss was a tough one, but it will only help the Lady Knights.
“This is the competition we need to become a better team and prepare for a potential postseason run,” Linehan said.
Up next: Southington was scheduled to host Farmington on Thursday in another tough CCC matchup. The Lady Knights face Bloomfield on Friday at home at 3:45 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.