Hawks lock up Brass Division

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BEACON FALLS — Woodland sophomore striker Jess Rodrigues remembered the feeling Watertown gave her Hawks last November in the Naugatuck Valley League girls soccer tournament championship. They got a little bit of revenge last Friday.

Rodrigues scored both goals and Erika Tyrrell made seven saves as Woodland blanked Watertown, 2-0, to lock up the NVL Brass Division championship.

“It’s so important because in the NVLs last year we literally cried because we wanted it so bad,” Rodrigues said. “This year we wanted it even more and we got it.”

It wasn’t the Hawks’ first quality victory of the season, but it was a win that first-year head coach Cait Witham thought finally commanded some attention from around the league.

“It earns them the respect they deserve,” Witham said. “A lot of teams in the NVL haven’t really thought much of us because of who we’ve graduated, and a lot of the games have been close so people think we’ve been lucky. Finally we’ve proven to them that we’re very talented.”

After a very even majority of the first half in which the ball stayed mostly in the midfield, the Hawks finally got their chance on a counterattack. Watertown’s Ashley Ciarlo played a direct kick on goal from just outside the box, but Tyrrell made the save.

Tyrrell immediately started the attack by getting the ball back into the midfield, and Megan Lynch dished a pass ahead to Rodrigues. The speedy sophomore streaked past the left side of the defense into the box and grounded a ball inside the right post for a 1-0 lead with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half.

“She did well today,” Witham said. “Her shooting was exactly what it needed to be today. She shot low and into the corner, and that’s what we needed.”

While Woodland’s defense continued to keep at bay the Watertown attack, the Hawks gained another quality chance in the second half. With about 18 minutes remaining, Savannah Aviz took a ball out wide to the right and played a cross into the box. Rodrigues slipped inside the defense and rose to head the ball on a bounce for the 2-0 lead.

“The goalie put it up, so I saw the ball above me and just headed it,” Rodrigues said. “It was perfect. I didn’t think I had that in me today. My back is really killing me because I’m kind of injured, so I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Tyrrell finished with seven saves for the shutout. Numerous times she was kept out of harm’s way by the Hawks’ defense, led by sophomore Shae Geary and senior Andrea Piccolo.

“They’re getting experience and trusting each other,” Witham said. “Shae and Andrea do a good job of anchoring it in the middle. Playing a flat four because of their speed works better than a stopper-sweeper would have. All four of the kids are fast so we can recover well in transition.”

Woodland couldn’t keep the momentum into their Brass Division finale Monday against Wolcott, which handed the Hawks a 2-0 defeat. Still, Woodland (11-4-1) holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Watertown after going 1-0-1 in two meetings.

The Hawks fell, 4-1, to Naugatuck Wednesday in their regular season finale. Maribella Sousa scored the goal for the Hawks.

The Hawks open the NVL tournament Saturday at 1 p.m. versus St. Paul at Naugatuck High School. The semifinals are slated for Monday and the final will be next Wednesday at Municipal Stadium.