BEACON FALLS — There’s that old cliché that sports fans have heard over and over again, probably so much that it loses its effectiveness. But the truth remains—defense wins championships.
The Woodland girls soccer team hopes that’s the case this season as its strength lies in its defensive unit which returns every player, including 2010 All-Brass player Kelly Boucher.
Boucher, a senior captain, was on the All-NVL Second Team as a sophomore and continued her strong play on the back line last season, helping the Hawks to a fourth-place finish in the Naugatuck Valley League a season ago.
This year, most of the team returns, but the losses will be tough to replace—All-Brass forward Marissa Mills and all-state midfielder Raven Palmerie, who was a multi-year starter at center mid.
“It’s going to be hard replacing Raven at center mid because she was a huge part of our starting line,” Boucher said.
Luckily for the Hawks, they can replace Palmerie’s position with junior captain Keri DeBiase, who earned All-NVL honors in both of her first two seasons. DeBiase and junior forward Stephanie Dumond could form one of the top scoring duos in the league.
The team’s strong defensive unit could help those two scorers find the net, according to Boucher.
“It’s going to be easier for the defenders to distribute the ball up to Keri and Stephanie so we have better chances to score more goals,” Boucher said.
The defense returns its stalwarts, Boucher and senior captain Kelly Sherman, as well as sophomore Andrea Piccolo and others. The goal will be defended again by Alma Rizvani, one of the more athletic goalkeepers in the league.
Boucher thinks the continuity in the defense could be valuable for Woodland.
“It’s definitely an advantage for us having all four returning defenders,” Boucher said. “We’re comfortable with each other and trust each other, so hopefully we’ll have low-scoring games, especially with our returning goalie.”
The Hawks finished 10-7-2 overall, including 9-5-2 in the regular season, good for fourth place in the league and second in the Brass. But that ledger included a number of tough losses, including a 2-1 loss at Watertown, a last-minute 3-2 loss at Naugatuck, and overtime losses to Torrington and Watertown.
With some momentum from last season, Boucher says the team’s goals are set high.
“The realistic goal would be to be in the top three of the NVL and to compete for the Brass Division and NVL titles,” Boucher said.
Head coach Joe Fortier, entering his sixth year, echoed that sentiment, putting effort at the top of the list to determine success this fall.
“We will work hard as a team every game and look at advance as far as we can in the NVL and state tournaments,” he said.
The Hawks kick off their season with a pair of road games, Tuesday at St. Paul and Thursday at Sacred Heart, before their home opener on Sept. 21 vs. Torrington.