Woodland and Watertown battle to tie

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Woodland’s Marisa Macek (26) battles with a Watertown player Monday afternoon at Woodland High. The Hawks and the Indians dueled to a 2-2 tie. LARAINE WESCHLER

BEACON FALLS — Ties can be frustrating outcomes to long, grueling soccer games. In Monday afternoon’s game between the Woodland girls and Watertown, a stalemate seemed like the appropriate ending.

The Hawks jumped ahead on two first-half goals, the Indians knotted the score in the second half, and the teams battled to a scoreless tie in overtime to seal a 2-2 tie between two of the Naugatuck Valley League’s best teams.

Woodland (6-0-2) scored a pair of goals inside the first 10 minutes to take an early, 2-0 advantage over the defending NVL champion. In the sixth minute, Keri DeBiase streaked into the box and took a pass from Steph Dumond before knocking it past Indians keeper Melissa Dodge for the 1-0 edge.

Three minutes later, Dumond received a pass from Alaina Neddermann and dribbled in from the left side of the box. Her cross to the right side of the net got by Dodge to make it a 2-0 lead.

After the rest of the half went scoreless, the Indians (5-2-1) and leading scorer Jess Spezzano began to attack keeper Alma Rizvani and the Woodland defense. Rizvani made save after save on hard-struck balls out of breakaways to keep Watertown off the board.

Midway through the second half, Spezzano took a lob and maneuvered around two defenders before finding room in the right upper-90 to pull the Indians to within 2-1.

“The third goal is the most important goal,” Woodland coach Joe Fortier said. “If we score, it’s deflating. If they score, they get all the momentum. Spezzano scored and it was tough. We hadn’t played a close game with a lead. I think we got unorganized and started clock-watching to hope they wouldn’t score.”

Both teams missed scoring chances into the waning minutes of the half before Spezzano scored the equalizer with 3:34 to play in regulation. She powered through three defenders at the top of the box and crushed a shot past Rizvani into the left side of the net for a 2-2 tie.

Only allowing two goals to the Indians, who outshot the Hawks, 10-3, in the second half, was an impressive performance by Rizvani.

Woodland’s Kelly Sherman throws the ball in Monday afternoon versus Watertown in Beacon Falls. LARAINE WESCHLER

“Her experience late in the season last year and now is shining through,” Fortier said. “From starting as a freshman, she’s gotta be up there as one of the best in the league. She hears it from me every day how much she’s improved.”

Neither team scored over the final 23 minutes of action despite a number of chances. In the last minute of regulation, Dumond’s shot from the top of the box was stopped by Dodge. On the other end, Spezzano fired a shot over the crossbar as time expired.

In overtime, both teams managed two shots on goal. With a minute to go in the first overtime period, Neddermann booted a corner to the center of the box where DeBiase couldn’t get a clean header on it. Woodland couldn’t capitalize on another corner and a free kick in the same minute.

Watertown’s chances came in the second overtime, but Rizvani slide-tackled a potential run away at the top of the box with 7:30 to play. The Indians also failed to score on a pair of corners in the last minute.

“It was nice to organize and stop them in overtime,” Fortier said. “It was a sloppy last 10 minutes in the second half. We took Keri out of center-mid and it’s tough to push forward with that. Today, you can’t say we played a complete 80, but it wasn’t because we didn’t take it to them. I think we are right there with them.”

After hosting Holy Cross on Wednesday, the Hawks visit Naugatuck on Friday night before returning home for three-straight starting Tuesday against St. Paul.