NEW MILFORD — Newtown High School’s girls’ soccer team overcame the wind, was even with the Green Wave through regulation and a pair of ten-minute overtime periods, but couldn’t pull through in the best-of-five round of penalty kicks to decide their October 26 playoff opener. The sixth-seeded Nighthawks lost 2-1 (4-1 in PKs) in their South-West Conference Tournament quarterfinal round visit to No. 3 New Milford.
Sarah Lynch, who scored to tie the game in the first half, recorded a first-round PK net-finder, but New Milford scored on all four of its penalty kicks to lock up the win in the fourth round.
“PKs — everyone knows they’re a horrible way to end the game,” said Newtown Coach Marc Kenney, going on to add that he realizes the contest has to come to an end at some point. “I’m certainly not disappointed in my team. I’m proud of them.”
The wind was a huge factor in this contest, with Newtown battling against it in the first half, and New Milford having to play through it in the second half. Whichever team was at the disadvantage saw clearing attempts stall in mid-air, passes get driven out of bounds, and the other team control the ball in the offensive end of the field for blocks of time.
Newtown had all four of its penalty kicks during the second half and second overtime with the wind at its back. After the Green Wave took the lead, Lynch was set up by Brenna Kelly to knot the score before halftime.
“To tie it up at halftime — I was optimistic,” said Kenney, who thought his team had a good chance to win with New Milford playing into the wind for the final 40 minutes. “The wind was a disaster — it was impossible,” the coach said.
The Green Wave finished the game with a 17-6 advantage in shots toward the goal. Newtown goalkeeper Alyssa Ruefenacht made a dozen saves, including a couple of key stops — a sliding play to break up a chance near the top of the 18-yard box, and a diving denial — in the first overtime.
“She was awesome. She’s been great all year,” Kenney said.
Unfortunately for the Nighthawks, it wasn’t enough to advance for a chance to get back to the conference championship game, which Newtown lost to Immaculate a year ago.
“We lost late and it was hard. We took some time to refocus,” said Kenney, reflecting on last year’s SWC tourney exit, which the Hawks followed up with a run to the state championship.
Kenney and company hope the same sort of refocusing and state playoff success is in store for this fall. The tourney will begin in early November.