BEACON FALLS – So close, yet so far.
Yes, it’s a cliché. But it’s one that perfectly fits the Woodland girls’ soccer team this season. The Hawks couldn’t hold a 1-0 halftime lead over Naugatuck Valley League-leading Watertown as the Indians rallied to take a 3-1 overtime win.
The NVL’s leading goal scorer, Jess Spezzano, struck a ground ball in the second minute of overtime that was slowed by Woodland sophomore keeper Alma Rizvani but crept between her legs and snuck inside the left post for the game-winner.
The Hawks took an early lead in the eighth minute when sophomore Keri DeBiase scored off a rebound of a shot rocketed by sophomore Alaina Nedderman on the right side of the field. DeBiase found the loose ball at the top of the six-yard box and knocked a ground ball into the left side of the net.
Woodland coach Joe Fortier said his Hawks didn’t try to sit on that lead because it was too early in the game against an excellent Watertown team.
“That early, we didn’t change anything,” Fortier said. “We had opportunities later in the half and in the second half but we didn’t take advantage.”
Woodland had three more good scoring chances in the remainder of the first half, including a pair of shots by the team’s leading goal-scorer, sophomore Stephanie Dumond. In the ninth minute, Dumond clanged a shot off the left post on a two-on-two break. Later, in the final minute of the half, Dumond received a pass from senior Raven Palmerie inside the 18-yard box but fired wide right.
Watertown evened the score in the 59th minute when Rizvani came too far out of net to the right side of the field, leaving an open net for Allie Mahar to tap in a shot to the left side of the goal.
But the Hawks were on the attack for most of the rest of the half, earning several near-game-winners over the last 15 minutes.
The best opportunity came in the 66th minute on a missile fired by Palmerie from 25 yards away from the net. Her shot just clipped the crossbar and ricocheted out of bounds.
With six minutes to play, DeBiase made an impressive cross from the right edge of the 18-yard box that narrowly missed a streaking Marissa Mills on the near post and Audra Blewitt on the back post.
Woodland had one, final chance in the last minute of regulation when Palmerie blasted a free kick from midfield and found Dumond in the box. Dumond couldn’t connect with her left foot, though, sending the game into extra time.
“Some of it I think is mental,” Fortier said of his team’s inability to take advantage of its late scoring opportunities. “I told them that one play can make a huge difference in a game like this. I think everyone is nervous that it’s not gonna happen. Some of those plays were just unlucky. Sometimes things go your way but sometimes they don’t.”
Watertown dominated overtime, scoring a final goal in the last minute when Woodland had no defenders back. Fortier gave credit to the Indians for outlasting the Hawks.
“They capitalized on their opportunities,” Fortier said. “They’re 13-1 for a reason. They’re deeper. They’re able to switch people in and out and we can’t.”
Woodland has stuck with all of the league’s top teams and will enter this week’s NVL tournament as the fourth seed. Fortier thinks that’s an accomplishment by itself but that the Hawks are capable of winning some more games.
“I don’t think there are too many people that picked us to be fourth,” Fortier said. “The story of our season has been sticking with the top teams but not being able to put them away. We’re just looking for that one big goal to get us over the hump.”