Back-to-back champs

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Naugatuck tops Torrington to win league soccer title

The Naugatuck boys soccer team celebrates after beating Torrington 2-0 to win the NVL championship Oct. 29 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
The Naugatuck boys soccer team celebrates after beating Torrington 2-0 to win the NVL championship Oct. 29 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

WATERBURY — The third bout on the pitch between the Naugatuck and Torrington boys didn’t disappoint — particularly for Greyhounds fans.

The Greyhounds topped Torrington 2-0 Oct. 29 on a wet and cold night at Municipal Stadium to win the Naugatuck Valley League boys soccer championship for the second consecutive year.

“It feels great. It was a hard-fought season,” Naugatuck coach Art Nunes said before his players doused him with a bucket of ice water.

The final was an up-and-down, physical — each team drew two yellow cards — match between the NVL’s top two seeds that didn’t lack for scoring opportunities. Free kicks, shots and corners piled up quickly as the temperature dropped.

In the ninth minute it looked as if Naugatuck had struck first. But Dan Martins’ goal was called back for an offsides.

The teams continued to trade jabs until Dan Martins landed the first body blow.

With six minutes to go in the first half Dan Martins controlled the ball in front of the net and fired it past a diving Nate Manchester to give Naugy a 1-0.

Naugatuck goalkeeper Enzo Pereira made a diving save on a free kick, Torrington’s Kevin Vaca sent a shot over the crossbar and Naugatuck’s Josh Aviles shot wide to bring a hectic first half to a close with the Greyhounds holding a slim 1-0 lead.

The second half opened just as frantic as the first half ended. Pereira snuffed out a dangerous corner kick and Naugatuck’s Ygor Silva shot high on the counterattack to open the half.

Nine minutes into the second half Naugatuck’s Yan Silva found Dan Silva, who got the best of Manchester to extend the Greyhounds’ lead to 2-0.

Naugy’s defense took over from there.

Despite Vaca’s best efforts to put the Red Raiders on his back, Torrington (15-4-1) couldn’t finish at the net. Scoring chance after scoring chance was turned aside by Pereira and the Greyhounds defense — with a little help from the post.

“The first time we played at their house (a 1-1 tie), we weren’t unified as a team,” said Pereira, who made nine saves. “But (Tyler Saad) does a great job calming everyone down. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as he does. Having him in front helps and, honestly, I just had to do my job. Everyone did their job tonight.”

Nunes said Pereira kept everything in front of him. The times that he did scramble in net, Nunes said, Pereira made the smart move clearing the ball and allowing the defense to get set.

“He just had a fantastic tournament,” Nunes said.

Naugatuck’s Joe Martins earned tournament MVP honors.

“I couldn’t do this with out my team,” Joe Martins said. “The MVP is not just one individual player; it’s all of us collectively as a group. We all work together. I love my teammates. I’d do anything for them. I wouldn’t be able to get this trophy without my teammates.”

As to how the Greyhounds won their second NVL title in as many years, Joe Martins said they stuck to their game plan.

Naugatuck’s Devon Curtis pushes the ball up field Oct. 29 during the NVL boys soccer championship against Torrington at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won 2-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Naugatuck’s Devon Curtis pushes the ball up field Oct. 29 during the NVL boys soccer championship against Torrington at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won 2-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“We stayed to our game plan, we opened up and focused and did our thing and came out with the championship,” Joe Martins said.

Nunes said the focus was on maintaining the middle of the field against a Torrington squad that was down center midfielder Alex Church due to a knee injury.

“I think we were just a little bit more fortunate to be able to control their guys than they were to control our three guys in the middle,” Nunes said. “We opened up a few more alleys and a few more holes. But hats off to Torrington, they did a great job this year.”

The Greyhounds lost eight seniors from the squad that went perfect in the regular season last year. Nunes said the team had a lot of holes to fill at the start of this season, but each player stepped up.

“It just fell into place and the kids stepped up,” Nunes said. “We’re fortunate enough to have really good players.”

Naugatuck’s (17-1-2) hopes of matching the NVL crown with a state title were dashed Wednesday when No. 18 South Windsor pulled the upset over the No. 2-ranked Greyhounds in the second round of the Class L tournament. South Windsor won 2-1 in penalty kicks.