With its 3-0 victory over Hall-West Hartford in the second round of the state Class LL tournament Monday, the South Windsor girls soccer team exorcised some demons in addition to advancing to the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Indeed, the Bobcats, who went undefeated last year, was the No. 2 seed in the tournament, only to exit the tournament in their first game - also a second round match after earning a bye in the first round - in a tough 1-0 loss to No. 18 Trumbull.
Courtesy of Amy McConnell’s brace and a goal from Danielle Karpiej, as well as a smothering defense, history did not repeat itself.
“I don’t know if it’s the monkey off the back thing,” South Windsor head coach Ed Duclos said. “But you don’t want to go two years obviously. It’s in the back of your head.”
The victory also allayed concerns over the long layoff for South Windsor, which hadn’t played since Oct. 31.
“We have gotten better,” said Duclos, who added that the Bobcats used the time off wisely, scrimmaging against Suffield. “Both teams played as a game … go. It was outstanding, the best soccer we played. It gave us so much confidence that we knew we were going to play strong.”
The end result on Monday was an impressive display of physicality and finesse - not to mention some good fortune along the way.
The Bobcats first survived a scare in the 14th minute, when Hall forward Kyanna Alleyne couldn’t connect in front of an open net to keep the game scoreless.
South Windsor then took advantage of another break, when Karpiej opened the Bobcats’ account in the 21st minute on a long shot that squirted through Hall goalkeeper Madison Hooper’s hands and over the line to make it 1-0.
The Bobcats kept the pressure on and were rewarded in the 28th minute when McConnell arced a gorgeous shot from the right side from just outside the 18-yard box, the ball tucking just inside the post to make it 2-nil.
“Just absolutely great,” Duclos said in an understatement.
Forwards most often get the glory, but it was the South Windsor defense that preserved the clean sheet with one of its best efforts of the year.
Goalkeeper Hanna Basile had eight saves, while Julia Galvin, Lauren Dansereau, Auna Harvey and Tori Russo, among others, harassed and harangued Hall’s attack all afternoon to keep the Warriors off the scoresheet.
“[Hall is] talented,” South Windsor said of Hall’s front line. “They have so much up front. … We knew we had to contain them. They didn’t take advantage of their opportunities in the first half, we did.”
In the last 10 minutes of the first and well into the second half, Hall threw in everything they had - rushing seven and eight players forward in an effort to get back in the game, but the Bobcats repelled every advance.
“They dominated the first 10 minutes [of the second half], and I switched the formation and I thought we got the better of it,” Duclos said.
“They’re really strong, they’re physical, and they’re well-organized,” Hall head coach Scott Ferguson said.
McConnell scored her second goal of the game on a counter in the 58th minute, directing her shot around Hooper and into the the right side of the net after being sent through.
The 3-0 deficit was too great for Hall to overcome.
“South Windsor deserved to win,” Ferguson said. “They were the better team today. You can talk about all the different factors that went into it, but at the end of the day they were better than us today.”
Hooper finished with five saves, while center back Allyson Swaby played well in the loss.
The Bobcats move on to the next round against No. 6 Newtown (14-1-3); the game will be played in South Windsor at 2 p.m.
Duclos said that if his side plays the way it did Monday, he likes its chances.
“We’re taking it one day at a time, all those good cliches, but we’ve got confidence right now; we think we’re the best team out there,” Duclos said.