MIDDLETOWN — The Woodland girls soccer season started on a sunny warm afternoon in early September when the Hawks took the field filled with so much hope of leaving their mark on history.
The season ended Tuesday on a cold dark night at Middletown High School where no Hawks’ soccer player has been before — the state semifinals.
The top-seeded Hawks’ dream of a state title was dashed by No. 12 Enfield as Woodland fell 3-2 (3-1 penalty kicks) in the Class M tournament semifinals.
“These seniors have laid a foundation and took this program to a place where we have never been before,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said. “Proud of these girls would be an understatement as to how I feel about them and the resiliency they’ve shown all season long.”
For the first time this season, the Hawks (20-1-1) found themselves trailing 2-0 at the half, as Alyssa Remington and Jessica Sackett each scored to give Enfield (15-2-4) the lead at the break.
These Hawks did not come this far to simply let the opportunity go by without rising to the occasion.
“It’s hard to prepare for a team you don’t normally see during the season but that’s what the state tournament is all about,” Witham said. “So we prepared for them the same way we do against any other team. I was concerned at halftime that we weren’t controlling the pace of the game and that is what I addressed at the break.”
With 26 minutes left to play Alexa Casimiro scored off a direct kick from Julia Casimiro to put the Hawks on the board. At the 7:10 mark Jess Rodrigues got behind the defense and sent in a rebound off a shot from Alexa Casimiro to tie the game.
Rodrigues ended up hurt on the play and didn’t return. That left Woodland without its top playmaker but the defense, led by Shae Geary, held Enfield to just one shot on goal after halftime.
After a scoreless overtime period it was on to penalty kicks to decide which team would play for the Class M state championship.
Woodland keeper Jenna Pannone gave her teammates all the opportunity they needed by stopping the first two penalty kicks. But it just wasn’t meant to be as Sam Plasky shot one wide of the post and Alexa Casimiro was stopped by Enfield keeper Cat Fonseca. Eliza Smith hit the crossbar and Geary finally got one to go for Woodland, but Enfield responded with three straight successful attempts to take the win.
Woodland’s tournament run started Nov. 11 with a 2-1 (8-7 penalty kicks) over No. 16 Rocky Hill in the second round.
Woodland booked its trip to the semifinals with a 4-1 victory over No. 9 Stonington Nov. 13 in the quarterfinals.
The Hawks scored four goals in the second half to pull away from Stonington and reach the semifinals for the first time in school history.
Hailey Boris, who scored the game winner in the shootout with Rocky Hill, got the Hawks on the board when her blast from the left side of the box popped out when keeper Tatyana LaFrance-Boyce collided with the post, and the ball rolled to the back of the net.
One minute later Stonington tied it at 1-1 when Hannah Johnson headed it into the net. That was the wakeup call as Woodland went on a flurry and didn’t allow another possession into their end for the remainder of the game.
Sonia Sousa, Eliza Smith, Julie Accetura, Haley Wolfanger and Geary stepped up the defensive presence taking away any of the Bears threats and the Woodland midfield hustled after every loose ball.
Andrews made sure Woodland was going to the semifinals as she scored the next two goals. Megen Sirowich put the finishing touches on the win scoring on an assist from Boris with just 26 seconds left for the 4-1 margin of victory.
Woodland, the Naugatuck Valley League champions, will graduate seniors Alexa Casimiro, Geary, Sousa, Valbona Vinca, and Rodrigues, but will return a very experienced team next season.
“I knew this group of girls had a lot of potential,” Witham said. “You can have high expectations but sometimes it doesn’t always go your way. These girls exceeded my expectations as far as our record but I felt we would have a chance at a league championship and they achieved that.”
Watch video highlights from the semifinal on the Republican-American Goal Zone.