WALLINGFORD – Prior to the beginning of The Wallingford Invitational Soccer Tournament, tourney co-director Dave Rodriguez highlighted the Wallingford Youth Soccer League Strikers in the 11U Girls Division as a team to watch.
The Strikers did not disappoint, defeating the Brazil CT Blue 8-0 at Choate Rosemary Hall on Saturday morning.
“We played well as a team,” head coach Ray Johnson said after the teams clash against Brazil CT Blue. “We have four new players that we added in June tryouts and this is the first game that they played as a team.”
The Strikers, who made it to the Connecticut Cup Finals this past year, were led by Mackenzie Johnson, who scored six of the team’s eight goals.
Johnson picked up a hat-trick less than 10 minutes into the game against Brazil CT Blue, giving the Strikers an early 3-0 lead.
“[Mackenzie] is always a standout, but she’s the ultimate team player,” Ray Johnson said. “She has a great attitude and she plays not just for herself but for everybody on the field.”
Mackenzie, who has been selected for the U.S National Team according to Rodriguez, got some help from her teammates as they showed some nifty passing on two of the goals.
Leah Corso-Green picked up the first assist, sending a pass from the left side of the box to the front of the net to set up the finish.
The second was a cross from Alexa Pino that Johnson controlled before finding the back of the net.
“We passed the ball and moved the ball well,” Johnson said. “I was very happy with that.”
Wallingford would take a 5-0 lead in the first half, as they peppered Brazil Blue with shots, leading to a Rylee Brunelle goal off of a rebound.
Jessica Rinaldi capped the scoring for the half sending a shot high into the back of the net on the Strikers’ 15th and final shot of the first half.
Wallingford would end up out-shooting Brazil Blue 25 to three in the game, which allowed them to keep the ball on the attacking side of the field for most of the match.
Johnson picked up right where she left off in the first half, picking up three more goals to extend the Wallingford lead to 8-0.
However, Johnson may have saved her best goal for last, as she made an impressive coast-to-coast run to pick up a hat-trick in each half.
It started with Johnson intercepting a Brazil Blue corner kick and streaking up the right sideline. After outrunning a few defenders, Johnson used some nifty dribbling to get into the box and juke the goalie before finding the back of the net with her left foot.
Wallingford’s defense was also impressive, as goalkeeper Gabriella Reddy saved all three of the shots she faced.
Brazil Blue struggled when they were able to go on the attack and a lot of that was because of Wallingford’s ability to transition back from offense to defense and rally to the ball.
“We definitely work on that a lot,” Johnson said. “I tell the girls someone with a lot of skill that doesn’t work hard will be outworked by someone with less skill and hard work.
“The fire in the belly is what I call it to my girls. I tell them if they have that fire in their belly they’re going to do great and [today] was an example of it.”
The Strikers played a second game against Brazil CT Yellow, but were defeated 4-2. Johnson picked up two assists for Wallingford in the loss.
In order to make the semifinals for the TWIST 11U Girls Division, the WYSL Strikers will need to win Sunday against the Newington Coyotes.
The Strikers will take the field at 1 p.m. Sunday as they look to keep their TWIST championship hopes alive.
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