WATERBURY — The Naugatuck girls soccer team squandered a chance to win the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division title Monday night at Municipal Stadium when Holy Cross rallied past the Greyhounds for a 3-2 win.
The Crusaders’ Mae Janiga netted the game-winner with 11:12 to play to throw a wrench into the league standings and sweep the regular-season series against the ‘Hounds.
“The first time we played them we were able to possess the ball really well,” Naugatuck coach Sean Dunn said. “Tonight we just played a little chaotic at times. We bounced the ball right back to them a few times and they took advantage of the opportunities.”
Naugy (9-4-1, 9-4 NVL) got out to an early lead when Katarina Gullotta sent in a corner to the box and Alexya Alves buried it to the back of the net just 2:08 into the match for a 1-0 lead.
Through most of the first half, the Greyhounds’ midfield of Jess Case, Taylor Campos and Stefanie Flores applied strong defensive pressure and forced the Crusaders to misfire in the passing lanes.
When Holy Cross did open up a few opportunities the Naugy defense, led by Kelly Koslosky, Jess Butler and Emma Colucci, provided an effective deterrent as keeper Cailah Baranowski made a couple of hard-nosed saves.
Cross keeper Lauren Sideravage withstood a Naugatuck barrage in the 15th minute, which helped turn the momentum in favor of the Crusaders.
Holy Cross started to win the foot race, several times getting behind the Naugatuck defense only to have Baranowski leave her post to defend the attacks.
Finally, midway through the first half, Janiga sent a touch pass through two defenders that Amy Stafford controlled on the other side. Stafford wound up and one-timed the breakaway opportunity into the net to tie the game at 1-1, a score that held into the second half.
With 25:01 to play, Janiga weaved through traffic and pounded a shot that rippled the net for a 2-1 Holy Cross advantage.
“I really expected us to play in control a little better than we did,” Dunn said. “There were times that Holy Cross was quicker on the attack than we were in stopping it.”
Sara Marques, Raina Ceryak, Christina Jando and Carla Gomes came on to help slow the Crusaders. Three times in succession Holy Cross took an advance inside the box and each time it was turned back.
About three minutes after the Crusaders took the lead, Naugy’s Suzana Amaral intercepted an advance and fed Nina Marinaro with a pass down the sidelines. She found Alves streaking down past two defenders into the left corner.
Alves’ shot didn’t find the net but Steph Lima fought her way past a pair of Crusaders at the post to deposit the ball into the back of the net tying the game at 2-2.
But Holy Cross’ offensive pressure made the difference when Janiga netted the game-winner after sprinting past the Naugy defense with just more than 11 minutes left.
“Holy Cross played well and they came out of here with a victory,” Dunn said. “Sometimes it’s just not your night. They used their speed and we just weren’t expecting that.”
The Greyhounds lost, 1-0, in their regular season finale Wednesday night against Watertown. NVL tournament play begins Saturday.