Greyhounds, Hawks ready for anything

Watertown’s Liam Farrell (7) and Naugatuck’s Ahmed Aljamal (10) battle for the ball Oct. 28 at Naugatuck High School. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Last year’s Naugatuck Valley League boys soccer tournament saw some of the best matches in recent memory — but a local team came out on the losing end of each one.

In the deep stages of this year’s tournament, the same type of matches with the same teams might be on tap again.

Naugatuck is the top and will host No. 8 Crosby Saturday at 2 p.m. The team that bounced Naugatuck last year, Woodland, is the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Waterbury Career Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

No. 3 Holy Cross and No. 4 Watertown, the defending champion, make up the rest of the top four.

“It’s always competitive,” Naugatuck coach Ryan Kinne said. “It’s much different than the regular season. There are always funky results in the NVL tournament. You have to be on your toes, play your game, stick to your style, and hopefully come out with results.”

Woodland coach Kenan Collins sees the same chaos.

“The NVL is a crazy league,” Collins said earlier this month. “You look at some of the results, and you see teams lower on the totem pole punching above their weight and getting great results, and you see the teams at the very top putting in results you didn’t see coming. It really makes things interesting and fun — it’s not a foregone conclusion. You always have several capable teams in this league.”

The Greyhounds will be the favorite for good reason. In their first 11 league matches this fall, they outscored opponents by a 40-5 count.

“I feel very positive,” Kinne said. “We’ve not only gotten results this year, but we’ve played very good soccer to earn those results. Last year, I thought we played some good soccer but we found ways to lose games and we made a couple of mistakes in the NVL tournament. You have to limit your mistakes defensively and then take advantage of the opportunities you have moving forward. We’ve got a solid foundation in the back and we’re pretty dynamic moving forward. We seem to be playing our best soccer at the same time.”

While Kinne and the ‘Hounds haven’t forgotten about last season’s disappointing postseason results — a 2-0 loss to the Hawks in the NVL semifinals and a second-round exit in the Class LL state tournament — the coach says this year will be a different story.

“The boys are hungry,” Kinne said. “The seniors and juniors that were a part of the previous season and the NVL championship and state final run the previous year, I think there’s a hunger there, but I don’t think we want to look back. We’re pretty well prepared. They’ve been motivated since last season, they’ve done some good things this year, and hopefully that culminates in some nice runs in these tournaments.”

The semifinals are Nov. 5 and the finals Nov. 7 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.