Hawks rally to win title

The Hawks celebrate their NVL soccer championship following their 2-1 overtime win over Watertown in the tournament final Nov. 4 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The Hawks celebrate their NVL soccer championship following their 2-1 overtime win over Watertown in the tournament final Nov. 5 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — With time running out in the Naugatuck Valley League girls soccer championship Nov. 5, the Hawks found themselves down to Watertown 1-0. It was just the second time since the season-opener that Woodland trailed in a game, but it would not turn into the Hawks’ first loss on the season.

Jess Rodrigues put the Hawks up for good with 58 seconds left in the first overtime period, as Woodland went on to beat Watertown, 2-1, to win the NVL crown.

Rodrigues went for the corner of the post. Watertown keeper Emily Hill managed to get a hand on it but the ball slipped past her for the game-winner.

“That was the biggest goal of my life,” Rodrigues said. “This is what we had wanted all season and now we finally have it, and what an unbelievable feeling it is.”

With 5:22 left in regulation a heads up play by the Hawks tied the game.

Julia Casimiro brought a dribble into the box from the right side, while on the far side Sam Plasky broke for the post. The initial shot was deflected by Hill, but Plasky was right there to finish it off and send the game into overtime.

“I just had a feeling that someone was going to cross it so I just ran to the back post,” said Plasky about her instinctive reaction to the play. “Julia went for the shot, but it tipped off her foot and I was there to tap it in.”

It took overtime but Woodland (18-0-1) snapped Watertown’s (10-8-1) streak of five straight NVL titles, a year after falling to the Indians in the title game.

“It took 15 kids believing in one thing and playing together as a team,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said. “It took a 100 minutes to get it done but we were successful because they worked together just as they have been all season.”

The Hawks did it the way they have been doing it all season using every facet of the game to their advantage. Led by tournament MVP Shae Geary, the Hawks defense of Sonia Sousa, Eliza Smith and Haley Wolfanger allowed just one goal in their tournament run with Jenna Pannone in the net.

The Hawks controlled possessions with a hard-checking midfield of Haley Andrews, Alexa Casimiro, Gillian Hotchkiss and Hailey Borris. At forward they utilized the speed of Plasky and Rodrigues.

Woodland’s Eliza Smith (11) clears the ball as Watertown’s Erin Hughson rushes in during the NVL girls soccer tournament final Nov. 5 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland’s Eliza Smith (11) clears the ball as Watertown’s Erin Hughson rushes in during the NVL girls soccer tournament final Nov. 5 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

In the first 10 minutes of the championship game, the Hawks were flying high and created numerous opportunities. Five times Woodland charged into the box out but had nothing to show for it as the game remained scoreless heading into the halftime break.

Watertown started to handle possessions with a little more consistency but Pannone (10 saves) and Hill (15 saves) stopped everything that came their way.

Then with 8:56 to play in regulation Watertown’s Fitore Kllobocishta and Pannone collided out in front of the Woodland goal and the ball found its way to the back of the net. Kllobocishta came out briefly with a bloody nose and Pannone went to the sidelines shaken up on the play that the referees ruled incidental contact.

The intensity picked up down the stretch, and the Hawks answered the call.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” Witham said. “They really worked so hard to get to where we are. I think they had to dig a little deeper to get past a great team like Watertown.

“I think the experience we gained last year in the tournament gave us a different mentality coming into it this tournament. We were confident and didn’t play nervous like we did last year.”

Woodland earned the top seed in the Class M tournament and a bye in the first round. The Hawks are scheduled to host No. 16 Rocky Hill (11-5-1) Wednesday at 2 p.m. for the right to move on to the quarterfinals on Friday.