With the Naugatuck Valley League girls soccer tournament set to start Saturday, the top teams in the league have shown throughout the regular season that the chase for a championship will be an adventure.
No. 3 Woodland will host No. 6 Oxford at 11 a.m. in the quarterfinals, while No. 5 Naugatuck heads to No. 4 Wolcott for an 11 a.m. match.
Woodland is looking to get back to the title game after getting knocked out in last year’s semifinals by defending champion Watertown.
The Hawks are led by a stringent defense that recorded seven shutouts this season. Isabela Mejias protects the net with the foursome of Olivia Kotsaftis, Erica Poehailos, Jenna Mierek and Kaitlyn Leonard out in front of her. The Hawks’ defense was prevalent in a 0-0 tie Oct. 22 with Watertown.
“I thought we played our best defensive game to date against Watertown, and that is the kind of effort we are going to need to be successful in the tournament,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said.
The Hawks have a diversified offense. Sara Alessio scored a hat trick in a 5-1 win over Seymour Oct. 21. Magdalena Lewicki, Holly Plasky Jill O’Neil, Aries Bell, Paige Letourneau and Delia Kotsaftis provide Woodland with a variety of offensive weapons.
Naugatuck has put up a sturdy record, but has struggled against teams that are ahead in the standings. The Greyhounds lost to No. 1 Holy Cross twice in two weeks, and ended the regular season with a 2-1 against Wolcott.
Naugatuck head coach Lisa Mariano said facing tough teams at the end of the regular season will have her team more than ready for the tournament.
“We started the season strong but had a little setback tying Woodland (4-4, Sept. 27), but I feel we are right back to where we want to be and we are looking forward to the challenge,” she added.
Saige Winslow has taken over the duties in the net for Naugatuck after an injury to keeper Sydney O’Donnell. The defensive unit of Alannah Hernandez, Allison Murphy and Julianna Magalhaes has kept the Greyhounds competitive.
Emma Sonski, Kylie Neretich, Alissa McNeil, Lily Lyons, Anissa Simones, Tori Lawson and Thalia Jardim have found the scoring touch for Naugy this season.
The NVL the semifinals are Nov. 5 and the finals Nov. 7 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.