Hounds can’t rally against Watertown girls

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Naugatuck's Isabelle Moody controls the ball as Watertown's Jessica Spezzano moves in to try and take control Wednesday night in Municipal Stadium. Watertown defeated Naugatuck, 2-1, for the NVL title.

WATERBURY — The stat sheet shows that it was all Naugatuck, but the score sheet told a different story.

The Watertown girls’ soccer team scored in the second minute, built a 2-0 lead by the 18th minute, then held on defensively to win the Naugatuck Valley League championship with a 2-1 victory over the Greyhounds before an estimated crowd of 1,000 fans Wednesday evening at Municipal Stadium.

In a rematch of last season’s title match, won by Naugatuck, the Indians (16-1) unveiled a new coach and a new style of play to bring the championship back to Watertown for the first time since 2008.

“It was a strange feeling,” said coach Lisa Mariano, an assistant for Naugatuck last season when the Greyhounds defeated the Indians, “to hear everyone cheering for Naugatuck, and I was just on that side last year. But Watertown is a good group of girls, and they proved tonight that they can play.”

Watertown got on the board fast. Jessica Spezzano took a direct kick from 40 yards, and the ball sailed high and true into the Naugatuck goal in the second minute. Then in the 18th minute, it was Rachel Azzara on the finish. Allie Mahar lofted a pass into the Naugy end, and Azzara beat Naugy keeper Kaitlin Carter to the ball and slipped the shot home.

Watertown had two goals before the Greyhounds even looked warmed up, but would it last?

“I was just focusing on keeping the ball out of the goal,” was the matter-of-fact answer from Watertown keeper Melissa Dodge, who faced 22 shots and made 11 saves.

Naugy got on the board with 5:20 left in the half. Stephanie Santos snuck through three Watertown defenders, fed the ball to Nicole Sambrook, and she put the shot inside the left post.

It was Sambrook who scared the Indians the most. “We had to tighten up on her,” Azzara said. “She’s one of the best players in this league.”

It was 2-1 at the half, and 2-1 at the end as the Indians held off waves of Naugy forwards and scoring chances.

“We wanted this more than anything and more than anyone,” said Azzara. The difference between losing in 2009 and winning in 2010, she said, “is composure. We pass to feet instead of playing kick ball. We have just played better soccer.”

And it was just as critical that Watertown lost the first and only regular-season meeting between these two teams, 2-0, in Naugatuck.

“All we kept saying was, ‘We’re going to meet them here, and we are going to beat them,'” said Azzara.

That defeat, the only one suffered by the Indians, powered this victory.

“From that day on, we wanted this more than anything,” Spezzano said. “We did everything we could, down to the blood, sweat and tears. This feels more amazing than any feeling, ever. It is the best feeling ever, to win the NVL.”