SOUTHINGTON — Southington girls soccer was blanked 1-0 in each of its first two contests of the season against stiff competition from Avon and Farmington.
The Blue Knights wasted little time getting on the board in a 3-0 CCC crossover win over Maloney at Fontana Field on Thursday afternoon.
All of the scoring came in the first half as the Blue Knights (1-2) found the back of the net off of a pair of Julia Rusiecki corner kicks to take a quick 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes of the sunny-day contest. Claire O'Neill and Riley Prozzo provided those goals and and Taylor Walwyn later sealed it with the third.
Southington earned a corner kick on its first possession. Rusiecki served it into the box from the right corner and O'Neill got enough leg on the cross for the goal just 49 seconds into the game.
“I want to get the perfect ball for the team and obviously it worked,” Rusiecki said. “We were motivated to win today because when you put on the Southington ‘S’ we know people want to beat us. We want to represent our town as a family; we want to pick each other up.”
Maloney countered and threatened on its first possession as well. The Spartans earned a free kick just outside of the box straight onto the goal just two minutes in. Bria Benigni’s shot was on target just under the bar, but Southington senior keeper Margaret Miller (4 saves) leapt up and got her hand on the ball to push it just over the bar.
Maloney’s following corner kick was cleared away without issue by the Knights’ defense.
Eight minutes later, Southington earned another corner kick and again it was Rusiecki from the right corner. The ball was served to the far side of the box, where Prozzo was waiting for it.
Prozzo settled it and laced it in from inside the box past Maloney senior keeper Cassidy Colacicco as the Blue Knights went up 2-0 in the ninth minute.
“This meant a lot after missing the first two games,” said Prozzothe senior who is heading to Boston College. “Today brought a good vibe. It was frustrating to lose the first two games. We fought to the end in those games and it was good to get the reward today.”
The spot-on corner kicks were a welcome sight for Southington coach Mike Linehan.
“Julia will be the first to tell you she struggled a little bit with them in the first two games,” Linehan said. “I told her I want her to take 50 corners a day. She said, ‘Coach?’
“The, I looked over to (SHS basketball standout Lily) Cooper. I said to Coop, ‘How many foul shots does coach make you take every day?’ She said, ‘She does 100.’ She said when she got to the line it is muscle memory. I looked at Julia and I said, ‘Listen to her; she doesn’t miss many foul shots.’”
Southington controlled the first 20 minutes with five total corner kicks in the early going.
Walwyn, a junior, made it 3-0 with a goal with 45 seconds left in the first half. O'Neill had the assist.
Linehan said Thursday was the first time Walwyn and O’Neill had been together up top..
“They are best of friends and I think that’s going to make a bit of a difference,” Linehan said. “Claire has been historically a defensive player, but the two of the have a bit of a combination. They work off each other well.”
Mia Carbone struck a kick off the crossbar for Maloney just before time expired in the first half with Southington holding a 3-0 lead.
The second half was tightly contested. Both teams had their chances, but neither could finish. Maloney had three corner kicks in the first five minutes after halftime. All were turned away. Southington had some strong attempts that were stoned by Colacicco (11 saves).
For the game, Southington out-shot Maloney 14-4.
Maloney dropped to 0-2-3 with the defeat in Dave Parness’ first year coaching the Spartan girls. Maloney started the season with stalemates against Tolland, Middletown and Berlin. Maloney’s other defeat was a 3-0 setback at Glastonbury last week.
“We were better in the second half, but we have to get off the bus ready to play,” Parness said. “We came out flat, and when you do that against a team like that they will make you pay. They are good.
“We had a few close calls,” Parness added. “We need to see the ball go into the back of the net. It’s been a couple of games and we hit the post a couple of times. We are a half a step away.”
Benigni and Carbone have been Maloney’s top players to this point. Tessa Lopez has been the top defender.
For Southington, Linehan said this win was well-needed after starting the preseason and regular season with key injuries to Prozzo, Lily Cooper and O'Neill. All played on Thursday, but none were 100 percent.
Prozzo missed the entire preseason with a back injury and played parts of the first two games. Cooper did not suit up against Farmington or Avon. O’Neill missed Farmington and played only a half against Avon. She left the Thursday’s match late in the second half after a couple of collisions.
Southington has graduated a lot of talent in the last few years, and with the early season injuries a less-deeper Southington team was tested. Younger players were thrown into the fire against tough foes to start the season.
“Losing is humbling and you learn a lot from losing a game,” Linehan continued. “I told the girls today we had to learn how to win. Today was about that … We were looking to start our season; we didn’t want to go 0-3.”
Kendall Edwards and Prozzo are Southington’s only returning defenders. Linehan said the 2023 team is still looking for its chemistry.
“We saw it happening during preseason, but with an injury, now you have a new player in and it changes it again,” Linehan said. “We are learning as quickly as we can and there’s a lot of game in front of us — aA lot of good games.
“A young team has to learn how to win. Then you can ask them: Let’s do it again. They have to learn how to go through that process.”