By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls soccer had a regular season to remember in 2018. The Lady Knights went 15-1 and captured the CCC West Colonial Division title. Southington outscored its opponents, 52-6, in those 16 games, and senior goalkeeper Olivia Sherwood—helped by a stout defense—recorded a program record 11 shutouts. The one loss came against Glastonbury, and it was only by a 1-0 margin.
The regular season was one to cherish for Southington. That’s what made the Class LL state tournament second round home loss to Simsbury so painful. The teams were scoreless through 100 combined minutes of regulation and two overtimes, and it came down to penalty kicks. The Knights worked hard in practice on those kicks, but the Trojans prevailed 6-4 and advanced to the quarterfinal round.
Southington has spent the offseason learning from the loss to Simsbury. The Knights are experienced. They are older, wiser, and ready to take on all comers in 2019. Southington hasn’t forgotten what happened against Simsbury, and it is looking to avenge that defeat.
“Many of the players on the team have high school experience and play at a high-level club environment for most the year off-season,” coach Mike Linehan said.
Southington returns the powerful, 1-2 scoring punch of Shannon Litchfield and Alli Carr, who are both junior forwards. Litchfield led the Knights in goals scored in 2018 with 15 despite missing the first five games of the season due to a broken wrist. Carr was right behind Litchfield with 12 goals, and she also had a team-best 10 assists.
Litchfield and Carr, who were both All-CCC West Region choices, are joined by fellow juniors Abby Sowa (3 goals, 3 assists) and Morgan Hubert. Sowa is a center back and Hubert is an outside back.
“Leadership from the returning players and team chemistry will be some of the keys for us to be successful,” Linehan said.
The senior captains are Emma Panarella, Jordan Beaudoin and Katherine Crouse. Panarella, a two-time all-conference selection, will set up in the midfield. Beaudoin and Crouse look to anchor anther strong defensive unit as center backs. Crouse and Sowa scored penalty kick goals in the Simsbury state tournament loss.
Southington must replace key pieces that graduated. Sherwood, Natalie Verderame (8 regular season goals, 3 assists) and Alijah Vega were all senior captains. Sherwood and Vega were All-CCC West Region selections and huge keys to the Knight defense, while Verderame, a former all-conference player, was a leader up front on offense. Vega was a three-time all-conference selection, and she was also all-state twice.
Logan Fischer, Gabriella Fiora and Gabriella Mondo were also lost to graduation. Verderame and Mondo scored on penalty kicks in the Simsbury state tournament loss.
Sherwood is a big loss for Southington in goal, and the Knights are looking at junior Emily Eigo and senior Lexi Almeida. Eigo worked with Sherwood last season and saw some limited playing time.
“It is very hard to replace a goalie, especially Olivia, but we feel we have two qualified goalies,” Linehan said.
Maya Wroblewski saw a bunch of playing time as a freshman in 2018 and tallied six assists to go along with two goals. She will look to keep playing a big role as a sophomore center midfielder. Linehan is looking for a strong impact from freshman center midfielder Jessica Carr, who also has premier experience.
The CCC West Region will once again feature strong competition, but the Knights are an optimistic, confident bunch going into the 2019 season.
“We look to be a contender and maybe a team to beat if we have some luck and stay healthy,” Linehan said.
Southington opens the season today on the road at Middletown at 3:30 p.m. The first home game is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17 against RHAM at 6 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com