By Sean Krofssik
MERIDEN — Ryan Bergert’s goal in the 20th minute was all that Lewis Mills needed in a 1-0 CCC South boys soccer victory over Maloney in the Spartans’ home opener under the lights of Falcon Field on Monday night.
In the battle of Spartans, the Burlington school improved to 2-0 while knocking the Meriden squad to 0-2.
Maloney, after falling 5-0 at Berlin in its opening game, is also still in search of its first goal of the season. LM, meanwhile, is one win away from reaching its 2020 win total.
“We just wanted to grind it out on their first home game in this beautiful stadium,” Lewis Mills’ coach Ben Kulas said. “I knew they were going to come out hyped. We had to grind it out to get a goal and grind it out some more. Last year, and the year before, we weren’t able to do that, so I’m proud of the guys.”
Bergert’s first half goal was the only score of the night as LM keeper Ryan Mayes made two saves in the shutout.
There wasn’t too much offense to speak about in the first half with just a combined three shots on goal. The visitors, though, struck through on one of their shot attempts.
Sophomore Charlie Joiner set up Bergert, a senior, who blasted it from close range and left Maloney goalie Kory London (2 saves) with no chance in the net.
“Ryan’s goal was his second of the season,” Kulas said. “At times, I thought he was the best player on the field and, at times, he was just working hard, which is what we need. When you are a small school in a big-school league, you have to grind it out.”
The Spartans of Maloney had just one shot on goal in the first half. In the second half, Dylan Miller hit the crossbar in the 50th minute and chipped another into the box four minutes later, but the ball was scooped up by Mayes.
Also in the 54th minute, Luke Reeder hit one off the crossbar from 25 yards away.
London jumped on a shot by Alex Butwill and prevented it from going over the line in the 60th minute to keep the game at 1-0.
Maloney’s last gasp was Angel Mendez’s free kick from 40 yards. Onil Carrion’s header was picked up by Mayes on one bounce to seal it.
Maloney coach Dave Parness said he thought his team played well on Monday night.
“I played a lot of young guys today and I thought they stepped up and played hard,” Parness said. “I thought they made one more play than we did tonight. We had chances, and more chances in the second half, but we couldn’t put the ball into the back of the net. That’s soccer for you.”
Parness said Miller, John Mendez and freshman Blake Benigni played well in the backfield. Freshman Jonathan McAuliffe also drew the praise of Parness, as did Miguel Cardona in the midfield.
“We just want to get better,” Parness said of season expectations. “In a game like tonight, we have to find a way to get a point. The next step is putting the ball into the back of the net and getting some points.”
Parness said the offense is a work in progress and will require a team effort.
“Scoring is going to be by committee,” Parness said. “I don’t see a double-digit goal scorer at this point. Everyone is going to have to chip in. We are going to have to grind it out. We are going to score more team goals than beating teams on a breakaway.”