CHESHIRE — Defense has been the Cheshire girls soccer team’s calling card all season. Goals, however, have been hard to come by recently for the Rams.
But when the Rams finally scored Thursday night, their first two goals were things of beauty.
Settling for scoreless draws the last two times out, Cheshire tallied a pair of first-half strikes and then scored with just under nine minutes to play on a blustery Thursday night to notch a 3-1 SCC Housatonic Division win over East Haven.
On a downright cold night that saw 25-30 mph wind gusts and the temperature dip into the 40s, East Haven actually scored first -- just over 12 minutes into the match.
But freshman Gabriella Tirado gave Cheshire the lead for good with just under 18 minutes to play in the first half. Ellie Pergolotti’s header in the 28th minute had tied the match 1-1.
And while Cheshire controlled the match all night, outshooting the Yellowjackets 13-2, the Rams couldn’t feel completely comfortable until Anna Hurlbut’s goal with 8:43 remaining.
The victory improved Cheshire to 9-1-2 overall and kept the Rams perfect in Housatonic play. Cheshire’s only loss this season was to Guilford in the second game of the season.
The Rams avenged that loss, sort of, tying the Indians 0-0 last Friday.
“Not scoring is our biggest problem right now,” Cheshire coach Kylee McIntosh said. “Guilford? I would say a tie was a pretty fair result. West Haven? We had chances, we had chances, we had chances. That was a little more heartbreaking. It felt like a loss.
“I wouldn’t say we were happy with a tie (vs. Guilford), but we were satisfied.”
Cheshire also tied West Haven on Tuesday 0-0. It was Cheshire’s seventh shutout of the season and the Rams have allowed just five goals all season.
“Obviously (going down 1-0) wasn’t what we wanted,” McIntosh said. “It was a little lapse on our part, but we kept our heads and energy up. A lot of times your heads go down when you go down a goal, but that wasn’t the case today.”
“We’ve been focusing on finishing because we’ve been getting shutout,” McIntosh added. “We’ve been working on a lot of things, so it was nice to see some of our practice translate into games.
All three goals were assisted by different Rams: Marisa Brough, Julia Hendricks and Briana Geloso.
The first Cheshire goal was a perfectly placed free kick by Brough from about 35 yards that found the head of the shortest player on the pitch.
Pergolotti, standing just under 5-feet tall, rose to the occasion. Her header from just outside the box sailed over the outstretched arms of East Haven goalie Angelina Munoz.
“The first goal was brilliant, obviously,” McIntosh said. “A lot of girls in high school aren’t always willing to head the ball. But we have a nice group of girls who are willing to get in there. We can’t ask for anything more than that.”
“I don’t usually get a lot of headers because I’m so short, but it felt nice,” Pergolotti said.
“I saw the person marking me didn’t drop back with me, so I was wide open,” Pergolotti added.” I saw the goalkeeper coming out in the corner of my eye, so I headed it over her.”
Pergolotti’s goal was Cheshire’s first since beating North Haven 2-1 nine days ago.
The Rams nearly scored again two minutes later when Tirado got behind the defense on the right side. Her shot from just before the end line, and from a tough angle, sailed over Munoz head, but hit off the left post to keep the match tied, 1-1.
Tirado was active throughout the first half, making several runs down the right side. She was called offsides several times before finally giving Cheshire the lead.
Tirado’s goal came at the 17:57 mark of the first half as she lofted a shot over the head of Munoz from 20 yards out.
“It was especially good to get a goal at home,” Tirado said. “My team was giving me amazing runs on balls. I hadn’t been able to finish ’em, but finally I was able to get it.”
The Rams trailed East Haven (3-6-3) for just over five minutes before Pergolotti tied the match.
East Haven scored against the run of play, as Cheshire controlled the ball throughout the match. The Rams had several scoring opportunities after taking the lead.
“I think sometimes they need a wakeup call. It’s not a good thing that they scored, but …” McIntosh said. “Do we have things to fix (defensively)? Sure, but we are in a good position.”
Cheshire nearly tallied a third goal in the first half with seconds to play before halftime, but Munoz made a one-handed save on a Geloso shot. Geloso and her twin sister Ariana were instrumental in the Rams’ attack all night.
Defensively, the Rams didn’t give up a corner kick. Goalie Seymone Rosenberg needed to make just two saves.
Prior to Tirado’s goal, Kayla Byrne took a corner from Tirado and shot high. Brough had a chance of her own later in the first half, but hit the ball high over the East Haven net.
Cheshire kept the pressure on after halftime, as Ariana Geloso and Kristen Daddi each had early scoring chances.
“It was nice to get a lot of girls on the sheet. It shows that we are versatile and dangerous,” McIntosh said.