BEACON FALLS — Teams often find themselves getting tripped up by teams they’d usually beat when big games are on the horizon. They get tripped up because their focus is on the next game, not on the game at hand.
The Woodland girls’ soccer squad was not about to let this happen to them.
The Hawks faced off against St. Paul Monday, a day before back-to-back matches with N.V.L. perennial powers Holy Cross and Naugatuck. Woodland took care of business with a proficient performance and started off a week that may define their season with a 5-0 victory.
“It was important to start the four-game week off with a win,” said head coach Joe Fortier. “We play some real good teams coming up now, it’s a tough week, but we made sure the only thing we were thinking about today was St. Paul.”
The Hawks (4-1-1) were coming off their first loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Watertown last week. The game was more closely contested then some would have expected going in, possibly even the Woodland players themselves, but Fortier feels that result, although a loss, built momentum for his team going into this judgment week.
“The girls didn’t know they could play with Watertown,” Fortier said. “They didn’t know they were at that level yet. That game showed the girls the level we’re at. They got so much confidence, even in a loss; it showed them they can play with anyone.”
That confidence showed on Monday, as the Hawks played as aggressively as they have all season, constantly beating St. Paul to 50-50 balls and having their way with the Falcons’ defense.
Marissa Mills got the scoring underway in the 21st minute when she found herself on the receiving end of a beautiful through ball served up by central midfielder Raven Palmerie. Palmerie delivered the ball to the feet of Mills, who beat a charging St. Paul keeper for the score.
The timely pass was one of many delivered by the midfielders, specifically Palmerie and Keri DeBiase, on the day. The two controlled the center of the field and distributed the ball perfectly to forwards in the attacking third of the field.
DeBiase also shut down St. Paul standout Helena Pereira, a 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year nominee. Pereira is a major offensive threat and has scored over 50 goals in her illustrious high-school career, but was man-marked and all but shut down by DeBiase all game.
In addition to her stellar passing, Palmerie added two goals of her own, one coming late in the first half on a shot from just inside the 18-yard box that sailed over the keeper bring the score to 2-0, and another in the closing minutes of the match that beat the keeper near the post and closed out the scoring at 5-0.
The third and fourth goals of the game came almost simultaneously, and Steph Dumond and Mills had a part in each.
Dumond rang a shot off the crossbar in the 57th minute that rebounded in front of the net before Mills put it away. Just two minutes later, Mills took the ball past two St. Paul defenders and paid back Dumond for her efforts on the previous goal, laying it off to her as she slotted the ball in the bottom right past a diving Falcons keeper.
Fortier commended the effort put forth by Dumond and Mills, saying the pair of forwards bring something that has lacked in previous years.
“Both of them are making defenses pay when they get open,” Fortier said. “They’re finishing their opportunities, and that’s something we’ve lacked in the last few years. We’ve always had these breakaway opportunities but now we’re finishing them.”
-Woodland beat Holy Cross 3-1 on Tuesday