By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
It’s been two years since the last Naugatuck Valley League boys soccer tournament, but it appears as though the wait will be well worth it.
Perhaps as many as five teams have legitimate shots to win the league championship, including Woodland and Naugatuck. They’ll be joined by Holy Cross, Watertown and Oxford as the top contenders when the tournament begins with quarterfinals Saturday.
“There’s a lot of good teams vying for that top spot,” said Woodland coach Kenan Collins, whose team is one of the last two undefeated teams left in NVL play, along with Holy Cross. “There are a lot of excellent teams entering the tournament.”
The Hawks are weathering an October deluge in the schedule that will have them play 11 of their 16 matches during the month.
With one match left to play, Woodland is 12-0-3 record, including a 1-1 tie with fellow unbeaten Holy Cross on Oct. 13 and a 2-0 road win over an up-and-coming Oxford squad Oct. 18.
“October’s been a pretty heavy month for us because we only had about five games in September due to weather,” Collins said. “The boys are really resilient. When you consider some of the guys are playing both varsity and JV, some of them are playing four games a week. They always bounce back.”
The Hawks and Crusaders should be the top two seeds, in some order, entering the tournament. Watertown is right behind them thanks to 13 straight victories following an opening-day defeat against Woodland. Oxford is 9-2-3. Naugatuck, which is dealing with some COVID issues, is 9-4-1 with two matches left.
Naugatuck coach Ryan Kinne said he’s hopeful that the team will be at full strength in time for the league tournament.
If the Greyhounds are at full strength, Collins sees the perennial championship contender as a threat. Either way, the Hawks’ coach said it’s going to take a special effort to win the title this year.
“It’s going to take a lot of grit and determination,” Collins said. “There are some tough matches. You look at Watertown, they’ve got one loss but they’ve pretty much steamrolled since. Holy Cross is going to be tough. Naugatuck’s having a tricky go of it this season, but Naugatuck is still Naugatuck. Oxford is very disciplined and tough to break down. I’m really looking forward to it. Anyone can really take the title.”
Quarterfinals will be played Saturday at the sites of higher seeds. Semifinals are set for Nov. 1 at Municipal Stadium, and the final will be back in Waterbury on Nov. 4.