WATERBURY — Naugatuck had no answer for the sheer speed of Watertown’s Jessica Spezzano, who recorded a hat trick to propel the Indians past the Greyhounds, 3-1, in the Naugatuck Valley League championship game at Municipal Stadium on Tuesday night in front of a very vocal 600 fans.
Watertown defended its title after defeating Naugatuck in last year’s NVL final. Greyhounds fans may soon forget the final margin but they won’t ever forget the saves that Kaitlin Carter made in goal for Naugy.
“Kaitlin made some incredible saves and kept us in this ballgame,” Naugatuck head coach Sean Dunn said. “She is one of our seniors and we have a lot of confidence in her. But we just couldn’t defend the speed that Spezzano has.”
The Greyhounds’ senior goalkeeper earned co-MVP honors along with Spezzano as they both turned in performances worthy of a championship game.
On the first possession of the game Watertown (16-2-1) bore down on the Naugatuck (13-5) goal. A collision ensued and Carter was knocked on her back. As the referee untangled the pile Carter emerged with the ball tightly wrapped in her arms.
That was just the preview of coming attractions that had fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Spezzano was just as amazing, as her speed appeared to have three gears—fast, faster and gone.
Both defenses were up to the task of a championship game. The fistful of jersey defense quickly turned into the occasional push for position and then outright shoves as players tumbled to the turf.
With just over three minutes left in the first half, Angelina Piccirillo sent in a corner kick that Katie Bottinick settled. The senior forward turned on a defender and had an open shot at the post. Melissa Dodge made a point blank save to keep the game scoreless at the break.
One minute into the second half, Spezzano raced in shoulder-to-shoulder with Emma Colucci and a quick shot across the front of the goal skidded out of bounds.
On the Watertown corner the ball came down out in front of two Indians attackers. Carter pushed her way through falling down to make the save. If that didn’t get everyone’s attention, moments later Spezzano was on a dead run in the box. The point-blank shot was somehow pulled down by Carter with another jaw-dropping save.
Spezzano got loose one too many times, and with 26:52 to go she outraced a defender to the right side of the box, letting go of a blast that headed for the far post and settled into the back of the net for a 1-0 Watertown lead.
The Greyhounds tied it up with 18:53 left when Isabella Verrilli squeezed a pass through two defenders. Alexya Alves caught up to it on the other side and ripped a high shot that went over the head of Dodge to make it a 1-1 battle.
With 14:56 to go, Spezzano raced into the corner and sent a high shot that was just out of the reach of Carter as the Indians were back on top by a slim 2-1 margin.
Five minutes later, Dodge fell down in the box trying to defend a Naugatuck advance. Bottinick charged in to take the shot at the wide open net but the ball went out of bounds before the shot could get off.
Spezzano put the clincher into the net with 3:15 to go for the final 3-1 margin and as the final seconds ticked off the clock the Indians charged the field in celebration.
“No one expected us to be here with all that we lost from last season,” Dunn said. “This was one of the best games we played this year. I know it’s tough on them now but it would be tough for any team that loses in a championship game. We will come back and regroup and then get ready for the states.”
The Greyhounds open up state tournament play as approximately the No. 10 seed in Class LL and was likely to host a first-round game on Thursday.
The all-tournament team was announced after the game and Woodland’s Keri DeBiase and Alma Rizvani as well as Naugatuck’s Isabelle Moody, Verrilli, Colucci, and Bottinick were selected.