NAUGATUCK – The season ended for the Naugatuck girls’ soccer team last Thursday after suffering a defeat by the Staples Wreckers from Westport, 1-0, in the second round of the Class LL state tournament at Naugatuck.
Naugatuck entered the state tournament as the No. 6 seed in the Class LL bracket, earning it a first-round bye, while its opponents entered as the 11th seed, defeating 22nd-ranked Southington, 2-1, two days earlier.
Though hopeful for his team’s win, how the game played out wasn’t exactly a surprise to Naugy coach Jose Sendra.
“Any state tournament, any team can beat any other team,” Sendra said. “And I told this to the girls: If we lose or win it’s probably going to be 1-0 or 2-1. That’s typically what happens in states. There’s no blowouts because it’s the first round where all the blowouts happen. The top seeds will play the lowest seeds, and then it becomes pretty balanced.”
The game was indeed fairly balanced, but in the end it was Staples’ impenetrable defense, led by Nicole Brill, and the Wreckers’ offensive ability to keep constant pressure on the Naugatuck defense that ultimately allowed Staples to clinch the win. Sendra was sure to point out another important advantage had by the visitors.
“We were outmatched a little physically,” Sendra said. “A lot of their players were much bigger than ours. But they didn’t roll over us by any means. They got their goal on a giveaway and that was it. Defensive lapse, that’s how they got their goal.”
The one goal scored in the game was by Abigail Lake with only about five minutes left in the first half.
The second half saw much of the same action as the first: Tough, physical play and a sharp Staples defense. Yet even with regard to the latter, Naugatuck had 14 shots on goal, only three less than the number of shots on goal by Staples. Naugatuck goalkeeper Cailah Baranowski had eight saves, three more than Staples keeper Jessica Ambrose.
Though the season ended for the girls after their loss to Staples, Sendra had nothing but praise for the energy and work the girls had put in throughout the season.
“We had a great season,” Sendra said. “We were 13-4-1. I’ve coached at another high school and I’ve never gotten past five victories. There are a lot of schools like that, there’s always one that doesn’t even get a victory. So the season overall was positive. The girls were very positive, they played well together, there was very little drama, they really worked hard all season, and they pushed for each other. It was good!”
When asked about next season, Sendra couldn’t help but laugh at first, while at the same time acknowledging what lies ahead of him and the girls’ soccer program in the future. He also couldn’t help but take a look back at some of the key players that worked so diligently to make Naugatuck such an impressive team this season and in seasons past.
“Next year is a rebuilding year,” Sendra said. “Arguably the best player in the NVL for the past three or four years has been Stephanie Santos. As a freshman she stepped on and started almost every minute of every game since. She’s a tremendously gifted player—that’s going to be a tough one.
“Then we’ve got secondary players like Nicole Sambrook, Cristina Sendra, Melissa Labonte, all these great athletes who are out there getting it done for us,” he continued. “We’ve got great players and we’re going to have to rely on those juniors and sophomores to step up next year.”