MERIDEN — It had been a while since we turned the corner deep into the CIAC Tournament with girls soccer.
But there it was, Tuesday night, Nov. 23, and two area teams were alive and kicking in the final four. Southington, the No. 1 seed in Class LL, was still unbeaten. Sheehan, the No. 8 seed in Class L, had just taken down the top dog in its division, RHAM-Hebron.
Only one of the locals would advance from Semifinal Tuesday to Championship Saturday and that was Southington. Even then, a 1-0 defeat to Glastonbury on a goal scored with just under six minutes to play was awaiting the Lady Knights at New Britain’s Veterans Stadium.
Still, it was a fine game to end a fine season and a number of fine careers, including one of the best ever at Sheehan High School.
We welcomed aboard a new coach who took up the reins at her alma mater and wound up being named Coach of the Year in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
We had four players make All-State. They and another 12 made All-Conference.
We settled on 13 for the 2019 All-Record-Journal Team, ranging from senior stars to freshman phenoms.
In the latter catagory, we actually had two. It’s been a while since we turned that corner in All-RJ land. Come to think of it, we never have.
All-RJ girls soccer is a set piece. Let’s put in on net.Southington
Chasing the ghosts of 2002, the Lady Knights put together a 14-0-2 regular season, grabbed the top seed in the Class LL state tournament and were unbeaten at 17-0-2 before falling 1-0 to Glastonbury in the finals to finish at 17-1-2.
Only the 2002 team, Class LL co-champion at 17-0-3, was more accomplished in Southington girls soccer history.
Which made selecting Lady Knights for the All-RJ team quite difficult. We didn’t know where to draw the line. Hats off to head coach Mike Linehan and his entire team.
But pick we must, so ...
Southington’s three leading scorers, the girls who fueled Southington’s 58-goal attack, all made the All-RJ grade: Shannon Litchfield and the Carr sisters, Allison and Jessica.
Litchfield, coming off a 15-goal sophomore season, had nine this year before her junior year was cruelly cut short by a broken leg. The Lady Knights would miss her production down the stretch.
Litchfield will be back next year, and so will the Carr sisters, and that does not bode well for Southington opponents. Allison Carr cranked out a team-high 16 goals and set up six others. Jessica Carr, only a freshman, racked up nine goals and nine assists.
From the midfield, Southington got solid two-way play from senior Emma Panarella and junior Abby Sowa. This is Panarella’s second turn on the All-RJ Team and Sowa’s first. Sowa was sure-footed with 12 goals and three assists.
Defensively, the Blue Knights were just as impressive. They posted nearly three times as many shutouts (16) as goals (6).
Panarella and Sowa were a big part of that. So were the senior captains on the backline: Cat Krouse and Jordan Beaudoin. They are acknowledged with All-RJ Honorable Mentions for their work.
So is junior goalie Emily Eigo. While she split time in net during the regular season, she was the stalwart of the postseason, especially in the final.
The five Southington All-RJ girls — Litchfield, Panarella, Sowa and the Carr sisters — all made All-Conference. So did Kat Crouse. Sowa and Jessica Carr were All-State Class LL.Sheehan
Knocking off No. 1 RHAM in the quarterfinals put the Lady Titans in their first state soccer semifinal since 1998.
Coincidentally, the opponent was the same: East Lyme. And so was the final result. Despite controlling play and generating the majoirty of scoring chances, the Titans lost to the Vikings 1-0 and finished 13-5-3.
That semifinal game was the last in the career of Olivia Dubuc. Sheehan’s scoring leader in each of her four varsity seasons, Dubuc finished as the program’s second-leading scorer of all-time with 71 career goals.
Dubuc combined speed with a powerful leg. Actually, legs: Dubuc was equally adept scoring with either foot. Her final goal was the direct kick that toppled RHAM in the quarterfinals.
Dubuc was named All-SCC First Team and All-State Class L. A year from now, she’ll be playing Division II soccer in Florida at the University of Tampa.
Dubuc suits up one last time on the All-RJ team along with Marley Esch. The senior captain and defender was named to the All-SCC Second Team and was her team’s R-J Scholar-Athlete.
Esch — named after Bob Marley, by the by — was part of a 2019 Sheehan defense that shut out nine opponents. So was Lexi Carim, a junior back who was selected to the All-SCC Second Team. Carim is an All-RJ Honorable Mention.Cheshire
In Ramland, Cheshire raised the SCC Housatonic Division flag at 7-0-1 and finished 14-4-2 overall after a second-round loss in the Class LL state tournament. Their rookie head coach, Kylee McIntosh, was the SCC’s Coach of the Year.
It wasn’t all that long ago that McIntosh was an All-State player for Cheshire. Fittingly, in her first year as coach, Cheshire had its latest All-State selection: Gabby Tirado.
The forward was an absolute force up top. She scored 14 goals. Half of them were game-winners, including one in overtime against Danbury in the first round of the state tourney. Tirado also had hat tricks on three separate occasions.
And, perhaps most remarkable of all, she’s only a freshman.
Tirado was one of three All-SCC and All-RJ selections for Cheshire. All three still have at least one year to play. Tirado was All SCC-First Team along with junior goalie Seymone Rosenberg. Sophomore defender Ellie Pergolatti was All-SCC Second Team.
Rosenberg and Pergolatti led a defense that logged 10 shutouts and allowed just 14 goals. Rosenberg’s goals-against average was 0.70.
“Seymone kept us in a lot of games and is incredible with the ball at our feet. She is one of the many reasons our system worked so well,” McIntosh remarked. “She was named a captain as a junior and I think that speaks volumes.”
Pergolatti, along with anchoring the backfield, was a factor on offense. She scored seven goals and assisted on three. Three of her goals were game-winners.
“Ellie is a strong defender for us and for her small stature is great in the air,” McIntosh noted. “She does a great job attacking out of the back and creating opportunities.”
Another player in that mode was sophomore Izzy Dzuira. Though moved to a new position on defense, Dzuira continued to exhibit a scoring touch with seven goals and two assists. Dzuira was her team’s R-J Scholar-Athlete and is an All-RJ Honorable Mention.Maloney
Hopefully not lost in the deep tournament runs of Southington and Sheehan was the breakthough success of coach Eoin McClure and his Lady Spartans. With an 8-7-1 regular season, Maloney girls soccer returned to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
The Spartans were led by their rock on the back line, senior captain and defender Liv Aitken, and by their sophomore spark plug up top, sophomore Mackenzie McCormack. Both were named All-RJ.
Aitken led a defense that allowed 17 goals and recorded seven shutouts. McCormack led the team in scoring, knocking home 10 of the team’s 25 goals and assisting on six.
Both Aitken and McCormack were All-CCC selections. So was junior goalkeeper Abby Lespier, a gifted multi-sport athlete who notched seven shutouts on the season.
Look for Lespier again during basketball and tennis season. For now, she is an All-RJ Honorable Mention in soccer.Lyman Hall
Lastly, we have the Trojans, who at 2-11-2 did not make the postseason, yet had an All-SCC First Team player in Jordan Smith.
A four-year varsity player, Smith was a defender and a senior captain, and she rounds out the 2019 All-Record-Journal Girls Soccer Team.
“She is proof you do not need to be big in size to play like a warrior, which she is, chasing people down with her speed and good hard tackling,” remarked Lyman Hall coach Tony Crane. “No one works harder or gives more of themselves. She will not amass stats to accompany the way she plays, as she plays defense. She is a fine young lady and will be hard to replace.”