By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls soccer found itself on an eight-game winning streak by the end of last week.
The Lady Knights were 12-1 entering Monday evening’s road game against Hall. That was after a 2-1 win over Avon and a 6-0 shutout of Hartford Public, but coach Mike Linehan wants his team to be careful with watching standings and becoming complacent.
“Sometimes it’s uncharted waters, and they’re not sure how to act,” Linehan said. “They’re excited watching themselves in the papers and they’re excited watching their rankings, and it’s a lot of fun, right? But sometimes that distracts you from what you need to do in the game. Every time you come out, it’s 0-0. You’ve got to prove yourself all over again.”
Southington came out slow in last week’s first game, a 2-1 victory at home against a sneaky Avon team on Oct. 15. The Falcons are better than their record (4-6-1 going into Monday’s games) would indicate, and the Lady Knights found that out when the visitors scored in the first 30 seconds.
Avon dominated the first five minutes, according to Linehan and senior captain Natalie Verderame. After those first five minutes, Southington got going and took control. Alli Carr scored off an Emma Panarella assist for the equalizer.
With 13:28 left in the first half, Abby Sowa’s left-footed boot found the bottom left side of the goal and Southington had a 2-1 lead. Sowa was assisted on the play by Carr.
“I think we saw that we weren’t in the right mentality and things change quickly when that happens, especially because lately we haven’t had a taste of intense competition,” Verderame said. “We saw that we had to focus on everything 110 percent, and that’s what changed.”
After Southington grabbed the lead, Linehan’s focus turned to Avon standout Jade Strassner. Strassner didn’t score the Falcon goal, but she was getting loose in the first half and making some dangerous runs.
Linehan turned to junior defender Jordan Beaudoin to shut down Strassner.
“I said ‘J’, I don’t want her to score, I don’t want her to get the ball, I don’t want her to turn,” Linehan said. “We took her out of the game, which was their strength.”
With their top scorer shackled, the Falcons had a much more difficult time getting going against the Lady Knight defense in the second half. On the other side, Verderame and Shannon Litchfield had some good opportunities to score and put the game away. The Lady Knights couldn’t score, but neither could the Falcons, and the home team celebrated another win on their Pink Night. Southington girls soccer was raising money for Susan G. Komen, the cancer foundation formerly known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
What Linehan saw in the Avon win was a learning opportunity. When Southington slips up against an overmatched opponent, it can come back quickly and win. Do that in the state tournament and it could lead to an early exit.
“We just got to be careful. A season can be ruined with a bit of complacency,” Linehan said.
Verderame said the team works hard in practice and usually comes out with “110 percent” effort.
“We do what we have to do to get things done,” Verderame said.
On Friday, the Lady Knights did what they had to do and smoked the Owls in Hartford despite some nasty field conditions.
“Our objectives for the game were: 1, Prevent injuries due to the conditions; 2, Execute our game strategy; and 3, Have some fun,” Linehan said.
Southington met all of its objectives on a field that was wet and dangerous to play on in some areas. Verderame scored two goals while Carr, Morgan Hubert, Brianna Linehan and Savannah Krom each had one goal. Carr, Linehan, Beaudoin, Marisa Imme and Maya Wroblewski each had one assist. The Krom goal was unassisted.
Olivia Sherwood didn’t have to make a save in registering her eighth shutout of the season. The eight shutouts tie her record, set last season.
Up next: Southington spends the week playing a pair of West Hartford teams. The Lady Knights went to West Hartford for a game against Hall on Monday evening. Southington hosts Conard on Friday at 3:45 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com