By John Goralski
The Blue Knights had the advantage in the first half with a number of scoring opportunities. Once came with a throw-in, another from a corner shot. Southington had one possession where they fought for two shots on goal, but Simsbury still clung to a scoreless tie at the break.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, the Southington High School soccer team battled another moral victory against an undefeated top 10 opponent until five minutes had elapsed in the second half. Another Southington shot was thwarted on one end of the field, and the Trojans answered on the other with a perfectly executed looping shot that put the winless Knights in the hole again.
The crowd fell silent. Even the Blue Knight coaches seemed to slump on the sidelines, but the boys kept on playing. Six minutes later, things finally turned around.
“Tonight, the guys responded well,” said Blue Knight soccer coach Dave Yanosy. “I think that they saw that we had the ability to score goals based on what we did in the first half, so we kept plugging away. We knew that defending would be part of the deal, but when we were able to counterattack, we were able to do well. Guys up top like Francesco and Schneider were very dangerous, and our midfielders were great as well.”
With just over 30 minutes left in the game, the Knights were finally able to tie the score. Casey Doyle raced toward the net from the 30 yard line with a Simsbury defender draped across his back. The two wrestled their way into the box until Doyle broke free and scored. The goal knotted the contest, 1-1.
“Doyle was being dragged down, so if he didn’t score it would have probably been a penalty,” said Yanosy. “He persevered, and that is a good word for what we need to do for the rest of this season.”
For the next 30 minutes, the teams battled in the midfield without scoring. In the first overtime neither team was able to break through, but with 2:35 left in the second overtime, a Southington player was knocked to the ground at midfield.
Both benches rose to protest. For a moment, attention was turned to the fallen player, but Eric Schneider capitalized on the confusion. The junior attackman found some space at the 40 yard line, stayed a few steps ahead of the defender, and crossed a shot across the net for the winning goal.
“If there was one guy that they really didn’t have an answer for, it’s him,” said Yanosy. “They kept him quiet by maintaining possession for long periods of time, but when we had counterattacks he and Francesco [Ricigliano] were very good. It was a phenomenal goal.
On Saturday, they proved it was no fluke. Southington took a 1-0 lead into the break and held off a pesky Newington squad for two halves of play. Brian Topper made nine saves to secure the shutout, and the Knights earned their second win of the season.
Southington entered the week with no wins in five attempts, but a 1-0 win over Newington was Southington’s second in the week.
“Tuesday was obviously a great win. I think it showed us what we’re capable of doing, and tonight was another hard-fought win,” said Yanosy. “This just goes to show you the depth that we have in this league. Here we had two teams that were 1-5 going into this game. We’re both pretty good teams that are playing pretty good soccer. This just goes to show you that, on any given night, you have to bring your A-Game.”
The Newington game was physical right from the start. Nick Valerio left the game with a gash over his eye. Schneider took a hit at midfield. With just under two minutes remaining in the first half, a Southington surge was stopped by a penalty in the box. Ryan Burrill stutter stepped and delivered a perfect strike to give the Knights the winning score.
Neither team was able to manufacture any scoring in the second half.
“I told Ryan that there are penalty kicks and there was that,” said Yanosy. “If we’re being honest, it was almost at a professional level to hit the ball with that type of accuracy and pace. No one’s going to stop that. He drilled it.”
With the victory, the Knights improved to 2-5. The Knights will try to carry the momentum on the road against a pair of 1-5-1 programs this week. The Knights will travel to New Britain on Tuesday and Windsor (1-5-1) on Friday. With wins in both contests, Southington could be on pace for the playoffs at midseason.
“We’re at that point in our schedule where we’re not necessarily playing a top 10 team in the state, but as you saw tonight, if you’re a top 10 team or not a top 10 team, everybody’s able to play,” said the coach. “New Britain is going to be tough. They’ve been giving teams fits all year, and Windsor is going to be tough as well. We’re not in any position to take anybody lightly.”
What a difference a week makes.
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By John Goralski