NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls soccer team went into Tuesday night’s confrontation with Watertown with a full head of steam. The Greyhounds were a perfect 5-0 on the season and put 19 goals in the net while surrendering a big zero.
The momentum wasn’t enough, though, as Naugy lost to the Indians, 3-1, for its first defeat of the season.
No one had delusions of going undefeated or not giving up a goal all season. But the rematch with Watertown, the team that knocked the ‘Hounds off their perch in last year’s Naugatuck Valley League championship game, was huge.
The Indians came in at 3-2 with their losses coming outside the NVL to Joel Barlow, the defending Class M state champion, and Pomperaug, one of the top teams in the South-West Conference.
The first play of the game told the story of how this contest would unfold. Katie Bottinick took charge of the first possession and drove into the box out in front of the Watertown goal.
The senior midfielder eyed the far right post and let go of a blast. Watertown defender Lauren Scully charged over to get a hand on it sending the ball directly towards the net for what appeared to be a goal put in by the Indians.
The ball hit directly into the post, bounding away—and so did the Greyhounds’ chances for the remainder of the night. Several in-front opportunities sailed over the top of the goal. Several more corner opportunities didn’t produce effective scoring chances.
With 29:01 to go in the first, Jessica Spezzano raced down the sidelines into the corner with the Naugatuck defense giving chase. A ball over the middle brought out keeper Kaitlin Carter but the ball got over her head.
Olivia Gugliotti broke into the box from the right side and buried a shot just inside the post for a 1-0 Indians advantage.
“We had no reason to think that we were going to be undefeated or not give up a goal all season,” Naugatuck head coach Sean Dunn said. “It was nice to get off to the kind of start we did. But Watertown was a big game for us and when that first goal of the year that we gave up went in it gave them a boost.”
The defense of Isabella Verrilli, Kelly Koslosky, and Kaitlyn Deptula were hardly rattled as they fought for every inch of grass the entire game.
But Watertown made the most of its opportunities and Naugatuck was just off the mark on its chances. With 10:38 to play in the first half Watertown struck again. Spezzano outraced the trailing defenders down the right side and steered a ball into the box.
The advance caught Lea Perugini in full stride and her next step ripped a shot past the dive of Carter at the far post for a 2-0 Watertown lead.
Naugatuck star Alexya Alves was marked the entire game by the Watertown defense. That brought out the best in Steph Lima, who charged into the Watertown end to maintain possessions for the Greyhounds.
With 10:15 to go in the half, Bottinick charged in with a ball but her shot lifted over the top of the goal, sailing out of bounds. On the next possession Bottinick had control again and this time came straight down the middle and slammed it past the dive of Melissa Dodge to make it a 2-1 game.
The Greyhounds came out in the second half trying to put some pressure on the Indians. But Watertown started to show their experience and began to get physical leaving several Naugatuck players on the turf in their wake.
The best Naugatuck opportunity was created with 23:14 remaining in the game. The Greyhounds swarmed into the box out in front of the Watertown goal. A collision over the middle left Dodge, the Indians’ keeper, sprawled out leaving the net open momentarily.
Koslosky steered a ball over to Alves who was wide open for the first time in the game. The shot was deflected and rolled towards the open net but bounced off the post. Bottinick managed to retain possession, sending a crossing pass to Lauren Piroscafo. The defense came up hard and knocked the ball out of harm’s way.
“We certainly had our chances and may have been a little anxious at times,” Dunn said. “But Watertown has a lot of experience and I think that may have been the difference in the game.”
The Indians put an end to any notion of a comeback with 7:26 to go when Nicole Martino assisted Spezzano, who turned on a defender and sent one to the back of the net for the 3-1 final margin.
Naugatuck will regroup for two road games over the next week. The ‘Hounds meet Holy Cross on Saturday afternoon before facing Seymour on Oct. 5.