The battle for the Naugatuck Valley League girls soccer title is about to kick off, and the Greyhounds and Hawks are primed to be among the contenders for the crown.
The league quarterfinals will be played Saturday, with the semifinals and final set for next week. The way things stand today, it looks like Naugatuck and Woodland will meet in the quarterfinals as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds respectively.
Naugatuck finished the regular season 10-3-3. The young Greyhounds have experienced a few growing pains this season. In losses to Watertown, 5-2, and Holy Cross, 7-3, the Greyhounds showed they still have room to grow.
“We’ve come a long way in the development of our younger players,” Naugatuck head coach Lisa Mariano said. “They are starting to understand their roles more and growing into their positions.”
“The girls are eager to give it their all and that hasn’t been a problem,” Mariano added. “But, being a young team it comes down to settling their nerves. They are not used to the pressure of the big games yet. That was a huge factor in the losses to Watertown and Holy Cross.”
Following the 7-3 setback to Holy Cross, the Greyhounds went 3-0-2 over to end the regular season, including a 2-2 tie against Holy Cross on Oct. 20.
Naugatuck rebounded from the loss with convincing victories over Derby, 6-0, on Oct. 11 and Ansonia, 7-1, on Oct. 16.
Emma Sonski scored two goals versus Ansonia. Lily Lyons, Paige Cruz, Kylie O’Donnell, Gianna Parente and Noelle Jacobi added goals.
The Greyhounds’ defense is led by Sofia Marques, Julianna Magalhaes and Catarina Rego, and Naugy has an experienced goal keeper in Sydney O’Donnell.
“We are prepping for the tournament and the girls are ready to go,” Mariano said. “Hopefully we can keep our nerves in check and show the kind of talent that this team has.”
Woodland has built a solid reputation based on a suffocating defense. Over a six-game stretch that included handing Watertown its first loss of the season on Oct. 16, the Hawks allowed just one goal and went 4-1-1.
“Our defense will be the key,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence right now. It took them a while to get comfortable playing as a unit and they have finally figured it out.”
The Hawks finished the regular season 8-4-4 overall and won three of their last five games.
The defense is led by Haley Wolfanger, Olivia Kotsaftis, Micheala Mastropietro and Erica Poehalios. Goal keeper Alanna Carasone was lights out over the six-game stretch, surrendering just one goal.
In the 1-0 win over Watertown, Carasone made 16 saves for her second shutout of the Indians this season. Karly Laliberte scored the goal against Watertown.
“Every kid that played gave 100 percent in the win over Watertown,” Witham said. “That is the kind of game we have been looking for all season. We have struggled with inconsistency, but this shows what we can do when we play with everything we got.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version that is published in the Oct. 25 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.