NAUGATUCK — The goal in a high school soccer is 8 feet high and 24 feet wide, certainly more than enough room to send a soccer ball to the back of the net with regularity. Not so in the NVL and especially playing the team dressed in garnet and grey.
The Woodland Hawks found that out in last year’s NVL championship game when they were held without a shot. In last Friday’s rematch, the Hawks, who scored six goals in the two games prior, came up empty against Naugatuck as the Greyhounds pulled out a 1-0 win.
Armed with a staunch defense led by Devon Curtis, David Ruela and Yan Silva, the ‘Hounds have not been scored upon through four games with goalkeeper Aren Seeger in net.
“I don’t think Aren has even been tested yet,” Naugatuck head coach Ryan Kinne said. “With Devon, Yan and David back there to help him out our defense has really kept teams off balance.
“Once we get our offense into a flow we are going to be an even more dangerous team. Woodland is a pretty scrappy and physical team and they really gave us a run for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again in the NVL tournament.”
Scrappy and physical perfectly describes last Friday’s affair between the neighboring schools.
Woodland was called for three yellow cards, giving them seven in three games. Naugatuck also received a yellow card as things got a little chippy late in the second half.
“We need to play a little more controlled,” Woodland head coach Tony Moutinho said. “We let our emotions get the best of us. Naugatuck is a very good team and every possession is covered.
“The rule is if you get 14 yellow cards throughout the season, regardless of your record, you won’t be able to play in the postseason tournaments and we have seven already through three games. We need to start playing with more composure.”
Woodland plays an equally stingy defense led by Xavier Gibson, Zach Powanda and Ryan Swanson. Woodland’s A.J. Oliveira (5 saves) is one of the best goalies in the league and Seeger (3 saves) is quickly making a name for himself.
The Greyhounds scored the only goal they needed with two minutes remaining in the first half. Naugatuck flooded the box from the left side. Bernardo Arruda put a boot on the ball that caught Pedro De Souza in full stride and the senior forward buried it just inside the post for a 1-0 Naugy lead.
Despite the frenetic pace to the game, neither side could crack the scoreboard again.
Moutinho put Andrew Spofford in goal and inserted Oliveira into the offense with 14 minutes left to try and create a spark.
Woodland earned a free kick from about 25 yards out with 3 minutes to go. The kick didn’t connect, but led to a corner. That opportunity came up short as well and Naugatuck preserved the one-goal advantage.
Woodland bounced back in a big way Tuesday with an 8-1 win over Derby. Anthony Barreira led the Hawks (3-1) with two goals. Oliveira had four saves. Woodland will host St. Paul on Friday and visit Watertown Sept. 27.
Naugatuck improved to 3-0-1 with a 2-0 win over Holy Cross on Tuesday. Curtis and De Souza scored for Naugatuck. Seeger recorded one save. Naugatuck will finish out the week at Derby on Friday and host Pomperaug on Saturday.