‘Hounds out duel Hawks to reach final

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Naugatuck's Jessica Case (3) and Woodland's Rosalina Santos (7) battle for the ball during their NVL tournament semifinal game Monday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won the game, 1-0. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck’s Jessica Case (3) and Woodland’s Rosalina Santos (7) battle for the ball during their NVL tournament semifinal game Monday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won the game, 1-0. –RA ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — Sometimes seeing a teammate on the receiving end of a pass is totally unnecessary. Naugatuck senior soccer player Angelina Piccirillo can vouch for that after her game-winning assist in Monday’s Naugatuck Valley League semifinal.

Piccirillo dished the helper on sophomore Sara Marques’ game-winning goal about halfway through the second half as second-seeded Naugatuck knocked off No. 3 Woodland, 1-0, at Municipal Stadium.

The Greyhounds (13-5) advanced to play top-seeded Watertown in tonight’s championship game at 7 p.m. at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.

The Piccirillo-to-Marques hookup for the decisive goal came with 20:41 left in regulation. With the Greyhounds dominating possession after halftime, Piccirillo generated a chance when she made a run down the left side of the field. Out of the corner of her eye, Piccirillo saw Marques streaking down the middle with a Woodland defender attached to her hip.

“I barely saw Sara,” said Piccirillo, an All-NVL Copper pick. “I looked down, kicked the ball and knew it was going for her. I knew I had to get it off my foot.”

On Marques’ first touch, she chipped the ball up to herself and made a move around her defender while the ball was in the air. Marques took another touch inside the 6-yard box and fired on goal, where Woodland goalkeeper Erika Tyrrell deflected the ball but couldn’t stop it from trickling inside the right post for the game’s only goal.

“It was a beautiful ball,” Marques said. “Everything was running through my mind. I did it once before and it didn’t feel the same. This was a big game for us and I was extremely happy with my performance.”

Marques was a second-half substitution for Naugy coach Sean Dunn.

“Sara is one of those players who likes to try things like that,” Dunn said. “She’s got those good, quick feet and she was able to flick it over in goal.”

Naugatuck’s defense did the rest. The Greyhounds allowed just three shots by Woodland (12-5-1), all of which came in the first half. Cailah Baranowski made all three saves, including two on one early threat by the Hawks’ Hailey Borris.

“We weren’t really able to possess anything through the middle of the field,” Woodland coach Cait Witham said. “Anything we played over the top just got shot right back at us. Our first touch let us down a few times.”

Woodland's Samantha Plasky (10) tries to knock Naugatuck's Alexya Alves (4) off the ball during their NVL tournament semifinal game Monday Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won the game, 1-0. –RA ARCHIVE
Woodland’s Samantha Plasky (10) tries to knock Naugatuck’s Alexya Alves (4) off the ball during their NVL tournament semifinal game Monday Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Naugatuck won the game, 1-0. –RA ARCHIVE

Woodland played without sophomore All-NVL forward Jess Rodrigues, who missed the game with a back injury. The Hawks’ other All-NVL player, midfielder Audra Blewitt, was shut down as well.

“If we move the ball like we know we can, it’s very tough for teams to keep that pace,” Dunn said. “Plus, our defense has been working very well and playing very well. They keep their high line. If the line is 20 or 30 yards away, it’s tough for teams to get anything by us.”

Piccirillo said Naugy’s success was an effort equally shared by all 11 players on the field.

“We worked together,” Piccirillo said. “We moved for each other. If a defender moved up, we had to get her back. If the midfield isn’t there, we had to fill in. We all have each other’s backs.”

Both teams will open up state tournament play with home games next week.