By SPENCER DREHER
Southington girls soccer locked up the top spot in the class LL rankings with a tie in the regular-season finale against NW Catholic (7-5-2) on Monday. That followed two close wins last week over Conard (6-7-1) and Hall (7-6-2). The Blue Knights also completed the perfect season with a 14-0-2 record, with their other draw coming to Farmington.
While the Knights did not put the ball into the net as much as they would have liked, their defense was as good as it was all year. Here is what happened:
Win over Conard
OCT. 29—Southington scored two goals in a four-minute span towards the end of the first half and that is all they needed in the 2-0 victory at Conard on Oct. 29.
Allison Carr scored first on a header with 16:35 left, the assist going to Morgan Hubert. It was Carr’s team-leading 12th goal and Hubert became the fifth Knight to record at least five assists on the season.
Emma Panarella scored just minutes later, giving her three goals in two games. The assist on her score went to Maya Wroblewski, her team-leading ninth assist of the season.
Players like Panarella, Hubert, Marisa Imme, and Brianna Linehan have stepped up in the absence of Shannon Litchfield, who had nine goals and five assists before a season-ending injury. For coach Mike Linehan however, he said he expects everyone on the team to step up.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” Linehan said. “As a result, coaches and players over the years learn how to make adjustments. The team and everyone on the team is going through an adjustment. This team has many talented players that are ready to step-up their game. We have a ‘next-player-up’ philosophy which we hope will carry us through the state tournament.”
Southington allowed just two shots on goal while attempting ten shots of their own. Emily Eigo and Lexi Almeida each recorded a save in the win.
Win over Hall
NOV. 1—Southington’s dominant defense stood out once again in a 1-0 win over Hall last Friday. The Warriors had scored seven goals in each of their previous two contests. The lone Southington goal came on a penalty kick from Abby Sowa in the first half, giving her seven goals on the season.
This was Southington’s 11th shutout in 15 games as they allowed Hall just three shots on goal. Hall goalie, Hana Roggendorf, had three saves in the loss.
In each victory, Southington was able to get out to a lead early, which allows them to turn the game over to the stellar defense.
“It is extremely important to score first whether it is in the first or second half,” Linehan said. “Before each game we identify game priorities and in most instances the first priority is to ‘win-the-first-10,’ which means to score in the first 10 minutes of the game. We have been able to accomplish this for many of our games and yet, in others, it has taken a little longer but at least before halftime. When playing in the lead, it builds our confidence and forces the other team to take risks which exposes them to counter-attacks and scoring opportunities for us.”
Win over NW Catholic
NOV. 4—The Knights’ regular season finale was cut short with about 20 minutes left because of darkness, and it ended in a scoreless draw against NW Catholic. Each team took one corner and the Knights outshot the Lions, 9-7, but neither team could cash in.
Eigo and Almeida combined for two saves in Southington’s second draw of the campaign.
Up next: At the beginning of this week, 28 teams were qualified for the LL tournament, which begins tomorrow with the qualifying round. Southington still held onto the one seed because of their opponents wins and ties tiebreaker over Staples, who also finished 14-0-2.
Linehan said the team will continue to make defense a priority in the tournament and expects to be successful because of it.
“It has been a priority for us since pre-season to defend as a team,” Linehan said. “We have given up very few goals this year and we make it very difficult to score. It is a team result that we are very proud of that we hope will help us prevail in the tournament.”
Southington likely received a first-round bye, which means they will host a second-round matchup next Thursday, Nov.14.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.