WOODBURY — The Woodland boys’ soccer squad saw its season come to a screeching halt Tuesday afternoon after being shut out, 3-0, by the Nonnewaug Chiefs in a first-round Class M state playoff match.
But as was so common throughout the season, the final tally was hardly indicative of the hard fight the Hawks put up.
Though Woodland gave up an early, eighth-minute goal to dominant Nonnewaug forward Bryce Lawlor on an assist from Cody St. John, the score remained 1-0 for almost the entire match.
And the Hawks were no pushovers. Though going in, the No. 30 Hawks (6-9-1 during the regular season) seemed no match for the third-ranked Chiefs (14-1-1), the Woodland boys showed fine form and unquenchable spirit throughout.
Christian Pinho, Steve Vaz, Eric Dietz and Tyler Carlos played innumerable aggressive balls deep into Chiefs territory but were shut down every time by an unflagging defense and at least two beautiful saves by Nonnewaug keeper Connor Boyen on balls most goalies would have missed.
Dietz left the game in the 35th minute with an ankle injury; the speedy sophomore was the Black and Gold’s go-to guy when they needed someone to one-touch a cross to goal. His absence, and perhaps senior sweeper Calvin Day’s (out with a broken arm) may have had an unfavorable effect on the team’s overall play, but it seemed the underdog Hawks were simply outplayed.
In the last 10 minutes, head coach Tony Moutinho pulled one of the three defenders and played him forward. The defenders seemed unhappy with Moutinho’s decision—but it may have been the only chance the Hawks had of beating the Nonnewaug defense.
In the 70th minute, the Chiefs took advantage of the weakened Hawks defense when St. John buried a header off a cross from Kyle McEvoy.
Maybe the floodgates were thrust open for Nonnewaug: Lawlor scored again unassisted in the last minute of play, bringing the tally to the 3-0 final.
Moutinho said he was proud that the Hawks managed to “keep up with” such a strong squad, but said they quite simply “didn’t get the breaks” they needed.
He said the Hawks showed improvement over the course of a losing season (6-10-1 overall) and that he anticipated a stronger squad next year.
“We were playing good ball in the end [of the season],” he said. “We came a long way from the beginning, we improved day by day; hopefully next year we can put it all together.”
The Hawks lost 13 seniors last year and spent this season learning to work together anew. Moutinho said this year’s squad showed better ball control but was largely physically outplayed by bigger, stronger squads. The Hawks also need to work on creating—and finishing—scoring chances, he said.
Moutinho hopes Carlos, Pinho, Adam Baz, Matt Moutinho, and Dietz all will step up and have “big seasons” next fall.
The Hawks will lose four seniors this year: keeper Damien Giordano, who split duties with Mark Beaulieu this season, starters Calvin Day and Steve Vaz, and reserves Mohamed Shitia and Ahmad Galal.