WATERBURY — The Naugatuck girls soccer team embarked on a new mission Monday, earning a 1-0 win over Bristol Central in the opening round of the Class L state tournament.
The No. 15 Greyhounds (14-6) will visit No. 2 Immaculate at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Greyhounds used a stout defense to get by No. 18 Bristol Central as Cailah Baranowski turned back six shots and Alexya Alves scored the game’s only goal midway through the first half on an assist from Sandra Dinis.
Naugy’s defense, led by Emma Colucci, Jessica Butler, Taylor Campos and Stefanie Flores, helped turn around a 3-3 record as Naugatuck won eight of its last 10 regular-season games — six by shutout.
The turnaround propelled the Greyhounds into the Naugatuck Valley League tournament as the No. 2 seed, and the ‘Hounds knocked off Seymour and Woodland to reach the NVL championship game for the sixth time in seven years.
There Naugy met No. 1 Watertown, which reached its sixth straight NVL title game and escaped Naugatuck 4-2 in overtime earlier in the season. The Indians duplicated the feat, taking a 2-1 (5-3 PK) win thanks to penalty kicks.
The Greyhounds’ defense was stretched to the limit in the early going of the NVL championship game as the Indians used the speed of Lilyann Cotas and Fitore Kllobocishta to apply the pressure.
Ten minutes into the first half, the ‘Hounds mounted a threat of their own when Alves broke through the left side of the box only to have Indians goalkeeper Ariana Hoxha come out to smother the attempt.
“We felt if we could keep moving the ball and maintain possession we would eventually get our opportunities to score,” Naugatuck coach Sean Dunn said. “We had some chances and gave Lex the option to play off people and attack the goal. We had no plans to change our game plan even having played them to an overtime game earlier in the season. We felt if we stayed with our game plan our defense would continue to do a tremendous job and Lex would eventually get one to go.”
With 6:59 left in the first half, the speed of Watertown finally took its toll. Kllobocishta moved in on a breakaway and Baranowski came out to defend the attack. The Naugatuck goalkeeper fell down in the box and Kllobocishta side stepped a defender to put one into the open net for a 1-0 Watertown lead.
Just before the half ended Dinis got a pass out to a wide-open Sara Marques in front of the Watertown box but Hoxha saved the shot at the horn as the teams broke for the half.
In the 64th minute, Alves received a pass from Suzana Amaral. Alves drew a crowd and sent a high kick over the defense. Alves then made a quick rush to the ball and fired a shot just under the crossbar to tie the game at 1-1.
The teams went into overtime and Naugatuck had a chance to settle it when Alves, Amaral and Marques were inside the box with clear shots at the goal. But nothing found the net as the second overtime period ended and the game went to penalty kicks.
Watertown got the upper hand in the shootout when Kllobocishta converted on the first attempt for the Indians. Kelly Koslosky saw her attempt bounce off the right post for Naugatuck.
The Indians continued to be successful with Cotas, Olivia Gugliotti and Erin Montambault coverting. Alves, Kyla Magalhaes and Angelina Piccirillo scored for Naugatuck to make it a 4-3 Watertown lead, but Rebecca Lopes knocked in the winner on the Indians’ fifth shot.
“I thought we had it at the end of the second overtime period,” Dunn said following the title game. “But it was not to be and we went to PKs. It’s never easy to decide a game like that but we need to continue our season in the states and go as far as we can.”