Girls' Soccer Team Beaten In Finals, But Future Looks Bright
NEW MILFORD — The outcome may not have been what members of Newtown High School's girls' soccer team were hoping for — a 2-0 loss to the host New Milford Green Wave in the November 14 South-West Conference North Division championship game — but below the surface are some positives to be found.
For starters, how about the starters? A majority of Newtown's starting lineup, and substitutes for that matter, stand to return next fall. Graduation claimed most of last year's two-time conference champ lineup, and the underclassmen stepped up and gained valuable experience this season.
Then, of course, there is this season — one that, after being delayed and then truncated, many felt might not ever get played, and then may not be completed amid coronavirus concerns and restrictions. Not only did the season reach its finish line, but Coach Marc Kenney's squad got to the last game.
About that game: New Milford broke a scoreless tie with 22:58 remaining in the first half when Ruby McSherry scored the first of her two goals, depositing a rebound after Newtown goalkeeper Julianna Stavola made an outstanding initial save with a dive to her right. The second goal, in the second half, came following a Green Wave corner kick. Stavola made six saves.
The young Nighthawks struggled to get the ball through New Milford's stingy midfield and defense throughout the afternoon.
"I think the better team won today. New Milford played really hard and their physicality was tough for us," said Kenney, adding that the Hawks prepared for, but couldn't stymie New Milford's Wave of attack with possession. "They did a good job of getting numbers up field."
Katie Rowan, Riley Powers, and Isabelle Caron worked hard to control the ball and try to generate chances in the title game. Lauren Jacobs, Elena Sughrue, Erin Phaneuf, Ally McCarthy, and Ally Bradley were among those who stalled the Green Wave both in the midfield and deep in Newtown's end.
Under the circumstances — not only the coronavirus-altered season and new-look lineup, but also the fact injuries came into play — Kenney said he could not be more proud of his team for its accomplishments this fall.
The team's wild win over Pomperaug of Southbury in the semifinals, which came in penalty kicks following a 1-1 regulation tie and pair of ten-minute scoreless overtimes, was more than a highlight of this odd campaign.
"That was a huge building block for this group going forward," said Kenney, noting that the Hawks came from behind to tie the score in the second half, stayed the course in OT, then ended it by dominating the round of PKs, outscoring the Panthers 4-1.
Newtown will lose on three three seniors, but all were part of the program during each of their four years, helping the Hawks reach the conference's pinnacle game every time. In addition to Stavola is fellow goalkeeper Alyssa Bailey — the tandem split time, each playing one half of games throughout most of the fall — as well as Emma Magazu, a defender injured early in the slate and unable to play again until being called upon to score the clinching goal to end PKs against Pomperaug.
Kenney said during preseason that his goals were to provide a memorable experience for the seniors while laying the foundation for future seasons with so much youth and varsity-level inexperience in the fold. Freshmen and sophomores started alongside juniors from day one on through the title contest. These young Hawks had some bumps in their varsity debut road, but pushed through the campaign with a record of 3-4-5. Now they are battle-tested.
This year, among Kenney's objectives were for the season to be completed and for the underclassmen to gain valuable experience. With those objectives checked off the list, perhaps next year's aspirations will be for the now somewhat seasoned Hawks to get wins in some of those close games that this year ended as hard-fought losses or ties.
Regardless, just getting the season in this fall, with everything going on, was win in Kenney's book.