Hawks return to title game

Woodland's Jessica Rodrigues (23) pushes the ball up field against St Paul's Sydney Palma (21) during the NVL semifinals Monday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-0. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Woodland’s Jessica Rodrigues (23) pushes the ball up field against St Paul’s Sydney Palma (21) during the NVL semifinals Monday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-0. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — Ever since the Woodland girls walked off the field at Municipal Stadium last year following their loss to Watertown in the NVL soccer title game, the Hawks had only one thing in mind: getting back to the finals to complete some unfinished business.

Woodland will get its chance.

The Hawks defeated St. Paul, 2-0, in the semifinals Monday at Municipal Stadium. Woodland will face No. 7 Watertown (10-7-1) again for the title Thursday at Municipal Stadium at 5:30 p.m.

The top-seeded Hawks (17-0-1) dominated play from the opening whistle against St. Paul (10-7-1), led by a suffocating defense that didn’t allow a shot on goal all night.

“As long as these girls give their best out on the field they are going to be successful,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said. “We were first to most of the loose balls and we maintained possessions. It got a little chippy at the end and we lost our focus but for the most part they played their game.”

Shae Geary, Eliza Smith and Sonia Sousa lead a defense that has allowed just three goals in the last 12 games. Keeper Jenna Pannone recorded her 11th shutout of the season Monday.

Hailey Boris got the Hawks on the board in the 10th minute and Woodland clung to a 1-0 lead at the half.

Woodland players Sam Plasky (10), Jessica Rodrigues (23) Alexa Casimiro (17) and Hailey Boris (7) celebrate following Boris’ goal Monday night during the NVL semifinals versus St. Paul at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-0. –KEN MORSE

Woodland players Sam Plasky (10), Jessica Rodrigues (23) Alexa Casimiro (17) and Hailey Boris (7) celebrate following Boris’ goal Monday night during the NVL semifinals versus St. Paul at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Woodland won, 2-0. –KEN MORSE

Woodland struck again in the second half. Alexa Casimiro fed a pass through the defense and Sam Plasky sent it to the back of the net 12 minutes into the second half, giving the Hawks all the cushion they would need.

“I think we got a little unlucky a few times in the second half with a couple of shots hitting the post,” Witham said. “We definitely need to do a better job with possessions inside the 30 when we play Watertown.

“Obviously our defense is our backbone, but St. Paul put up a good fight and we were fortunate to come out of here with a 2-0 win.”

Woodland had its offense in gear in its 8-0 quarterfinal win over Seymour Oct. 31. Alexa Casimiro led the way with two goals and four assists. Julia Casimiro, Julie Accetura, Gillian Hotchkiss, Jess Rodrigues, Hailey Boris and Geary added goals to complete the onslaught.

Heading into another match with Watertown, the five-time defending NVL champion, Witham knows the Hawks will have to be focused if they want their retribution.

“Watertown in November scares me, I’ll admit to that. Having the mentality that we fear no one is what makes teams lose. I have a healthy respect for every team we play,” Witham said. “Watertown is on a mission and yes I’m nervous but that will help us to play that much more focused.”