Greyhounds turned around season after slow start
DANBURY — The Immaculate girls soccer team wanted to make sure Naugatuck senior star Alexya Alves finished her career with 56 goals, and the Mustangs did it.
No. 2-seeded Immaculate focused its defense around Alves and shut down the No. 15 Greyhounds, taking a 2-0 win in last Wednesday’s Class L state tournament second round. The Mustangs eventually advanced to the semifinals.
Natalia Diaz scored both goals for Immaculate, a perennial tournament powerhouse out of the South-West Conference. Ashley Houghton made saves on the only three shots Naugatuck (14-7) got on net, while Cailah Baranowski stopped 10 shots in her final game.
“They’re a high quality team that had a lot of speed and a very, very good attacking striker (in Diaz),” Naugatuck coach Sean Dunn said. “They were able to get to the ball very quickly. They man-marked Alexya Alves, so it was it tough for us to get any offense.”
Naugy won its first-round game Nov. 4 against No. 18 Bristol Central with a 1-0 decision as Alves netted the 56th goal of her brilliant career. Baranowski posted the final of her 29 career shutouts with six saves.
The ‘Hounds won the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division and advanced to the league championship game thanks to a 1-0 win over rival Woodland in the semifinals. That victory came a week after Naugy had avenged an opening-day loss to the Hawks, and Greyhounds’ turnaround from their early-season struggles impressed Dunn.
“I couldn’t be happier with how we finished the season,” Dunn said. “Taking a loss in the opening the game against Woodland gave them a little more fire at the end of the year, and getting the win at Woodland in the season finale definitely gave them a boost into the tournament.”
Naugatuck will lose 13 seniors, including Baranowski, Alves, Nina Marinaro, Jessica Case, Emma Colucci, Jessica Butler, Angelina Piccirillo, Michaela Pruchnicki, Christina Batista, Jill Monck, Christina Jando and co-captains Katarina Gullotta and Kelly Koslosky.
“They’ve been such leaders throughout the past few years,” Dunn said. “You can’t have eight or nine captains, but they’ve all been leaders, without question. They took a responsibility to train well in the offseason and try to be a group that was unified.”
Alves may be the most difficult player to replace after her prolific career. She earned the NVL Top Senior award for her efforts this season, but Dunn thinks her best contribution was her leadership that he hopes will benefit next year’s squad.
“She grew into an amazing offensive attacker,” Dunn said. “To lose somebody who has produced 56 goals in her career is a huge loss, but I think the other girls have learned from her. She talked to the younger girls a lot, so I think that will trickle down to the other girls.”