BEACON FALLS — About two weeks ago, most considered the Woodland girls to be the odds-on favorites to win the Naugatuck Valley League soccer title.
But that was before a devastating injury to one of the league’s top scorers potentially derailed the Hawks’ chances at their best season in nearly a decade.
Early in last Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Torrington, senior Steph Dumond collided with the Red Raiders’ Tori Flowers and collapsed to the grass. The damage: two broken bones in her right forearm, which had to be surgically repaired last week.
The extent of the surgery prevented a cast for now, so Dumond won’t be able to play until the injury heals to the point where she may be able to wear one on the field.
“It’s important to us that we make her feel like she’s still part of this team while she’s out,” Woodland coach Joe Fortier said. “Our biggest concern isn’t about the team but it’s more that our teammate got hurt. We feel bad that this happened to her in her senior season. It’s been pretty tough on her.”
Though she’s out indefinitely, Dumond made her first appearance since the injury at Woodland’s home game against Derby on Tuesday. With her white No. 14 jersey partially hidden by a black sling, she wryly smiled as she walked past the scorer’s table to the Hawks’ bench.
“It sucks,” she said.
The Hawks haven’t yet suffered on the scoreboard without Dumond, the team’s second-leading scorer in each of the last two seasons. They’ve outscored their two opponents since the Torrington game 11-0, including a 5-0 win over Ansonia last Friday and a 6-0 win over Derby on Tuesday.
Keri DeBiase, who scored just one more goal than Dumond when they were juniors, has tallied four goals and two assists in the two games since the injury. Audra Blewitt has three goals while Jess Rodrigues has two goals and two assists. Andrea Piccolo and Alexa Casmiro have also scored in Dumond’s absence.
Fortier said he doesn’t expect anybody to “replace one of the top goal-scorers in the NVL” but rather that other skilled scorers step up more than they may have with Dumond up front.
“We feel like we have multiple options,” Fortier said. “On any given day we can have someone else be the leading scorer. It all starts in the middle and we have a nice combination of Keri and Alexa in the middle to distribute the ball. Jess Rodrigues, Megan Lynch and Audra are going to get more opportunities.”
But Dumond’s injury leaves the Hawks without a four-year starter who brings a strong veteran presence to an NVL championship contender.
“She’s a senior and she’s been there, so that’s what’s really hard to replace,” Fortier said.
Woodland will enter its midseason gauntlet Friday at home against Wolcott. The Hawks are on the road for three games next week, including contests at Watertown on Monday, Holy Cross on Wednesday and Bunnell on Friday, before returning home Oct. 8 against Naugatuck, who might be the league’s co-favorite.
Based on the surgery’s success and the injury’s early-season timing, the team is optimistic that Dumond can return by tournament time at the end of October. If she can come back, it would be a huge boost in Woodland’s chances to win its first league title since 2004.
“We want an NVL title,” Fortier said. “Our goal before the season was to win the title. It might be a little harder now but we think we can still do it.”