By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls soccer entered last week with Sept. 27 circled on the calendar. That was the date of the much-anticipated rematch against Simsbury, who knocked the Lady Knights out of last year’s Class LL state tournament with their penalty kicks.
First, Southington needed to take care of business against Conard on Sept. 24 on the turf of Fontana Field. The Knights went above and beyond in a 6-0 thrashing of the Chieftains. Coach Mike Linehan thought Conard seemed to be out of sorts and not playing like its capable of playing, but he also gave credit to his girls.
“When we move the ball around, when we get into our groove and we start possessing like we do, that breaks down any good team,” Linehan said.
The competition got tougher on Sept. 27 at home when Southington hosted Simsbury. The Knights led 1-0 at halftime and had a 2-0 lead in the second half, but had to hold on to win, 2-1.
“These girls have to realize they’re going to get a little bit bumped and bruised, and we’ve got to be prepared to be able to play within that physical environment,” Linehan said. “I still think we shied away at times, we got a little tentative, and when we get tentative, things don’t work for us.”
Still, Southington came away with a win against a good, well-coached Simsbury side.
“You win the game, so at the end of the day, you meet your objective,” Linehan said.
The Knights improved to 5-0 with the victories.
Here’s what happened last week:
SEPT. 24—In what is becoming a staple of this year’s girls soccer team, the Knights struck early against the Chieftains.
Less than seven minutes into the game, Maya Wroblewski dribbled down the right side and crossed perfectly to Alli Carr, who simply tapped the ball into the goal. At 14 minutes in, Shannon Litchfield dribbled down the left side and passed to Alli Carr for another goal and a 2-0 lead. The onslaught continued from there as Litchfield, Wroblewski, Abby Sowa and Micaela Potamis each scored a goal.
“Alli came back, I was happy to have her back,” Linehan said. “She makes a big difference for us up top.”
Alli Carr had missed the Hall game on Sept. 20 because of a minor injury. Injuries have been an issue early on for Southington, which worked its way through them against Conard. Alli Carr was getting her legs under her in the first half, but Linehan said she was “outstanding” moving off the ball in the second half.
“When we can play to her or to her feet, we’re going to do well,” Linehan said.
Jess Carr tallied three assists while Wroblewski, Litchfield and Morgan Hubert added one assist each. Knights outshot the Chieftains 18-5. Jess Carr, Emma Panarella and Abby Sowa combined to once again control the midfield for Southington. Combine the control of the midfield with the firepower up front, and the Knights are a dangerous team to deal with.
Emily Eigo and Lexi Almeida combined for four saves for the clean sheet.
SEPT. 27—When the final horn sounded in this game, the Knights could breathe a sigh of relief.
Southington led 1-0 at halftime on an Alli Carr goal off of a Lauren Verrilli assist. The goal came with 29:45 left in the first half.
“The first half was I think the way we like to play, building, a little possession. Our first goal was outstanding,” Linehan said. “Then I think we got outworked. I think that Simsbury, again, those teams that come out and know they may not be as talented, they’re going to come out [strong].”
The Knights did take a 2-0 lead when Litchfield tallied a goal off of a Panarella assist. Litchfield got the ball and fired it in from the left wing about midway through the second half, and Southington appeared to be in command. With 14:41 left to play, however, Simsbury’s Rachel Sullivan scored off of a Kathryn Rutledge to get the visitors to within 2-1. To add injury to insult, Almeida was hurt on the play going after the ball with Sullivan. That brought Eigo back into the game. Eigo had played the first half.
From Sullivan’s goal on, Simsbury hit Southington with everything it had. With just over seven minutes to play, the Trojans just missed connecting with a good ball. Rutledge put the ball into the box on the ensuing flip throw, but the Knights were able to clear it out.
Linehan said the Knights get distracted easily on Fridays, especially when football has a home game that night.
“We got football going on and they got a lot going on, but they need to recognize that, first and foremost, before we do that, that we’ve got to play a game,” Linehan said.
Linehan said the credit in the Simsbury win went to the defensive backfield of Katherine Crouse, Marissa Imme, Hubert and Verrilli. Crouse is a senior captain, but she’s missing her fellow senior captain, Jordan Beaudoin, in the backfield. Beaudoin has had to sit out the last couple games.
“They were outstanding, they were tested at times, and they survived,” Linehan said.
One thing that the RHAM and Simsbury games have shown Southington is that opponents won’t be afraid to get physical.
“We have a tremendous amount of technical ability, but at times we get uncomfortable with that physical play,” Linehan said. “You can see, we start shying away, and we don’t win those 50-50 balls.”
The season is also only five games old, and Linehan is just making sure that the Knights learn lessons each time out.
Up next: Southington is on the road for both games this week. The Knights played against Avon on Tuesday. Southington is at Wethersfield on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com