GIRLS SOCCER: Cheshire poised for a second-half surge

GIRLS SOCCER: Cheshire poised for a second-half surge

Record-Journal
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Cheshire coach James Luis saw his team improve to 6-4 overall and 4-1 in the SCC Housatonic with Tuesday's well-balanced 6-0 rout of North Haven. | Justin Weekes / For the Record-Journal

CHESHIRE — Losing a high-powered core of seniors to graduation in June altered roles for the small band of returning seniors with the Cheshire girls soccer team this season.

Saige Bingman and Sarah Clark were All-State selections. Central defender Abigail Abramson forged her legacy as a softball player, but her determination, leadership and understanding of team dynamics are hard to replace.

Allison Leonetti, part of the goalkeeping tandem Zoe Riccio and six others left the slate clean for returning keeper Sam Mathews, Elizabeth Lurz, Jill Klem, Julia Acquavita and three other seniors in supportive roles.

The first half of the season had some pitfalls, but fifth-year head coach James Luis, using that time for personnel modifications, is confident the Rams (6-4, 4-1 Housatonic Division) can defend their SCC Tournament title and make a deep run in the Class LL tournament.

“This group is as talented as the one last year; I’ll tell you that right now,” Luis said.

“They lack playing experience. We have juniors on the varsity team who didn’t play at all last year because of the number of seniors we had, so it’s taken them time to understand the physicality of the game. That’s the biggest thing that really set us back at the beginning of the year. Some of our younger kids are competing against kids four years older. It’s a different type of athlete physically.

“Over time, we’ve just gotten better and better. A lot of teams may have peaked already, but we’re going to peak at the right time.”

If even a little growth can be measured in comparative scores, the reloading Rams tipped North Haven 1-0 in the season opener September 15. But in the rematch at home Tuesday, Cheshire ran roughshod over the Indians by a 6-0 score.

The chances were many. Several shots skipped off the crossbar. The scoring was balanced. Six different players scored and four assisted.

“It feels good to know that we can put this many goals in the back of the net,” said Lurz, a forward whose speed is a key component in running down loose balls and generating offense. “We can get a win against any team when we play like this.”

The goalkeeping was superb. Among Mathews’ four saves was a smothered North Haven penalty kick midway through the second half. As is Luis’ method, he brought in highly touted freshman keeper Seymone Rosenberg to get the feel for the varsity game and lay the foundation for transitioning toward the future.

Klem noted that last year’s team looked to Bingman (17 goals) and Clark (12) for offense.

“Last year, we had really strong players and we relied on them, but this year, overall, our team wants to work together instead of relying on a few people,” Klem said. “We’re all getting chances. We’re working very hard together and I like the fact that now that I’m a senior all these younger girls are looking up to me, Lurz and our other captains. They want to communicate with us and, last year, I felt we had some trouble with communication.”

Klem had nine goals last year and Lila McNamee netted eight as a sophomore, suggesting how complete their adjustment to the varsity game was.

Central midfielders Kaitlyn Loura and Paige Perez have pooled their diverse skills to urge the Rams forward. Loura sees the field well and distributes effectively (8 assists, 13 over 1½ seasons). Perez is a confident, aggressive ball-winner.

Against North Haven, sophomore midfielder Marissa Brough used her superior strength authoritatively on both her goal and assist. She assertively laid claim to space in the box, converting Loura’s corner kick into the first goal. She used her strength and possession skills to drive the ball into the attacking zone where she set up Shariqa Rahman for a 1-on-1 goal in the second half.

Caroline Campion, also a sophomore, has emerged as a scorer alongside McNamee. They share the team lead with seven goals apiece and each has assisted twice.

Danielle Ellis and Isabelle Pellegrino join Rosenberg as freshman contributors who assure Luis that the program’s success is apt to continue.

“Like we talk about, we’re halfway through the season and we’ve had a chance to see everybody,” Luis said. “For us, that’s a big deal and we talked about that right from the beginning of the season. The second half is really the big thing. It’s really about me giving them the recipe and them doing the baking.”


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