It’s a tradition for the Woodland boys’ soccer team to start every senior on Senior Night.
Even if they haven’t started a game all season, no matter the opponent or importance of the match, each senior is on the field at the opening kickoff.
In this case, the opponent was a tough Seymour team and the importance level was lofty, as the two found themselves tied atop the N.V.L’s Brass Division
The method hasn’t worked well for the Hawks in recent years, but on this Senior Night, it was exactly what Woodland needed for victory.
The Hawks (11-2) toppled the Wildcats 2-1 and claimed sole position of first place in the Brass Division with just three games remaining in the regular season.
The shift to start every senior forced head coach Tony Moutinho to play conservatively in the opening minutes of the match. One change Moutinho made was moving Senior Captain Tyler Carlos from midfield to defense to hold the Wildcats off the board until Woodland made it to full strength.
The move paid off. Carlos not only kept the Wildcats off the board, but put Woodland on it, finishing on a beautiful run with 15:25 remaining in the first half.
Carlos received the ball at midfield and drove into the Wildcats defensive third. He sped past three Seymour defenders and ripped a low lining shot that beat a diving Seymour keeper near post for the score and a 1-0 lead.
“Carlos doesn’t usually play in the back,” Moutinho said. “I put him there today because I knew I was going to be starting some reserve players and wanted to keep Seymour from scoring. After the first few minutes he played so good over there I figured, I’m going to keep him there the whole game, and good thing I did because he played excellent there. I think he might play there the rest of the season.”
Woodland struck again, with what proved to be the game winner, midway through the second half on a botched play by Seymour keeper Kyle Mayers.
Mayers came off his line to clear a ball that had been played over the top for forward Eric Dietz. Mayers got to the ball just outside of the 18-yard box and attempted to kick it away, he missed the bouncing ball completely and the ball slipped behind him into the box.
Dietz who was alertly staying with the play ran to the loose ball and deposited it into an open net. The goal was Dietz’s team leading 21st of the season.
Seymour’s Walter Podgorski scored a goal with three minutes remaining in the match, but it was too little to late as the Hawks were able to shut down the Wildcats and earn the victory.
Moutinho commended the play of his two keepers Patrick Dietz and Marc Beaulieu and his defenseman Carlos, Adam Baz and Sean Deegan, crediting them for holding the Wildcats to just one late goal.
“The defense was strong all night, both keepers and the back line,” Moutinho said. “They held us down at times offensively, there a good team, but we shut them down on defense and held them to just that goal at the end.”
Moutinho expressed his excitement on notching the elusive Senior Night win.
“They really wanted this one tonight,” Moutinho said. “Especially because it was a Senior Night and we haven’t won a Senior Night in over a few years. They were just really ready to go tonight and I’m happy for all the players.”
Woodland travels to Ansonia on Friday for a rematch of their opening season game which the Hawks won 3-2. They face Kennedy and Crosby to close out the regular season next week.