WALLINGFORD – No. 19 Weston outlasted No. 11 Sheehan 4-3 (4-2 PKs) in a back-and-forth thriller at Riccitelli Field on Saturday afternoon.
This Class M girls soccer quarterfinal included one last-minute goal from each team. Sheehan’s Sam Larkin scored with 53 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Weston freshman Rebecca Strouch scored her second goal of the game with 54 seconds left in the second overtime to push the game into penalty kicks.
There, Weston was as perfect 4-for-4 with goals from Nicole Sztachelski, Ava Zielinski, Natalie Haythorn and Petra Friden against Sheehan keeper Beth Arnold.
Weston keeper Bridget Angus stopped Sheehan’s first attempt by Grace Waldron. Olivia Dubuc and Kelsey Burr scored for the Titans, but Angus made a stop on Lexi Carim to clinch the game.
“Our girls never gave up,” Sheehan coach Rob Huelsman said. “They fought until the end and I’m proud of them.”
This see-saw contest started with Sheehan holding a 1-0 lead at the half. The Titans scored in the seventh minute when Dubuc converted a rebound off an initial shot from Burr. Angus was in good position and made the stop, but bobbled the save. Dubuc was in front of the net and pounced when Angus dropped the ball.
But then came the Weston second-half rally.
The Trojans tied the game 1-1 with 37:40 mark left in regulation. Sheehan keeper Anna Medici ran out to the top of the box to quell a Weston attack, but two Trojan attackers were able to get around her and Strouch tapped in the equalizer.
Ten minutes later, Sheehan coach Rob Huelsman summoned Arnold to the goal and the freshman immediately made a lunging save as the Trojans continued to turn up the heat.
Eventually, Katherine Orefice completed a lengthy Weston possession from close range to put the visitors up 2-1 with 16:32 on the clock.
With time ticking away, Huelsman summoned his third keeper of the game — Avery Holden — to move Arnold up into the attack.
Trailing 2-1 with under a minute left in regulation, Dubuc calmly delivered a perfect corner kick that was headed in by Larkin to tie the game 2-2. The ball went over the shoulder of the Weston keeper with 53 seconds left on the clock.
“It was almost like that was in slow motion,” Larkin said. “I’m speechless that I was able to score that goal. It’s something I will never forget.”
In the first overtime, Julia Podchaiski headed in a goal for the Titans with 4:45 left. As with the equalizer, Dubuc was spot-on delivering a corner kick.
“I was happy to help my team with those corners,” Dubuc said. “We will learn from this game. It will help us in the future.”
Down 3-2 lead, the Trojans turned the tables on the Titans with a last-minute tally of their own. Strouch got loose in front of the goal and converted from close range to tie the game with 54 seconds left.
“We were 54 seconds away,” Larkin said. “But we kept fighting. I’m proud of the way we played this game and all season.”
The Titans was seeking their first state semifinal appearance since 1998. Sheehan finished the season 15-4-2. Weston (11-6-2) advances to face No. 2 Granby in the semis.
“Sheehan never gave up,” Weston coach Gustavo Reaes said. “They scored with 53 seconds left. It was a testament to their coaching and their seniors. They never gave up. Then we got it tied with 50 seconds left. But once we got to PKs, we were the lower seed and we didn’t feel any pressure taking the PK, and I think that was the difference. But Sheehan did a phenomenal job.”
The Titans graduate Burr, Larkin and Christine Thorp, all senior captains.