The second-seeded Newtown High School boys’ soccer team, following 100 minutes of scoreless soccer, including a pair of ten-minute overtimes, prevailed in a round of penalty kicks to defeat visiting and seventh-seeded Masuk of Monroe 1-0 (4-2 in PKs) in a thrilling South-West Conference Tournament quarterfinal round game under the lights at Blue & Gold Stadium on October 26.
Newtown goalkeeper Eli Klorczyk, largely untested throughout game play because of Newtown’s overall dominance in ball possession and offensive pressure, came up with a diving save on the first shot of the best-of-five round of PKs, and benefited from a second-round blast clanking off the crossbar. Newtown’s Brenton Scott, Matt Mossbarger, Logan Puleri, and Grant Ricketts all hit the back of the net with Ricketts’ fourth-round tally sealing the win.
The Nighthawks move on from defeating one group of Panthers to face another. They advanced to the October 28 semifinals at designated “neutral site,” Pomperaug of Southbury. Newtown’s opponent happens to be the No. 3 Pomperaug Panthers, a winner over sixth-seeded New Milford, so this is — effectively — a home tilt for the Panthers. The winner advances to play either top-seeded Joel Barlow of Redding or No. 5 Brookfield in the championship game at Stratford’s Bunnell High School on October 30, at 7 pm.
In the Masuk game, Newtown finished regulation and overtime with a decisive advantage in shots directed at the goal — 26-7 — and Masuk goalkeeper Neil McCarter had to come up with nine saves to keep things scoreless; Klorczyk had two stops. The visiting Panthers nearly ended things in the second overtime but an in-close scoring chance banged the post, creating a sigh of relief on the Newtown bench, as well as in the packed stadium stands.
Newtown nearly won it in regulation. McCarter made a leaping save on a long shot from Newtown’s Nate Kalra from the right side, with five-plus minutes left in the second half. Kalra, Blake Jarvis, Clay Gattey, Mossbarger, Ricketts, and Scott all generated scoring chances. Newtown’s pin-point, quick passing enabled the home team to keep control of the ball throughout most of the game, but nothing got resolved despite the pile-up of chances, until the nerve-wracking round of penalty kicks — Newtown’s enemy in recent years. The Nighthawks have suffered some hard-to-swallow PK setbacks in tourney games in past seasons, including an SWC quarterfinal round exit at the hands of Pomperaug a year ago.
“You hate for it to end in PKs — it was a good game; Masuk came to play,” Newtown Coach Brian Neumeyer said.
The coach added that he believed pulling through against Masuk would spark his team to keep the ball rolling throughout the postseason.
“I think it just makes us a little stronger here to move forward,” Neumeyer said.