SOUTHINGTON — The Southington girls soccer team had a quick exit from last year’s Class LL state tournament in a crushing second-round loss to Simsbury on penalty kicks.
The top-seeded Blue Knights put away any doubts of disappointment in 2019 with a decisive 4-0 second-round win over No. 17 Amity on Thursday afternoon at Fontana Field.
Southington used a balanced attack, with four different scorers finding the back of the net, to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. Southington (15-0-2) will host No. 9 New Canaan (15-4-1) in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.
New Canaan blew up hopes for a quarterfinal border war by defeating No. 8 Cheshire 2-0 in their second round matchup at Alumni Field earlier on Thursday afternoon.
Several hours later, jSouthington juniors Abby Sowa and Allison Carr, senior Emma Panarella and freshman Jessica Carr each scored for the Blue Knights in their victory over Amity (9-7-3).
“It’s been a long time since we have been here and in this spot,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said. “We remember coming in and having the bye last year and coming into the second round and losing in penalty kicks. We are extremely happy to be where we are.”
Sowa put Southington on top 1-0 with a goal in the 15th minute. The score stemmed off of a corner kick by Maya Wroblewski. Jessica Carr was credited with the assist.
Seven minutes after that goal, Wroblewski set up another corner kick. She put it on the head of Alli Carr and the redirect kissed the crossbar and came back out.
Southington had another golden chance to expand the lead in the 33rd minute. Micaela Potamis charged down the right sideline and put a shot on net from a tight angle. Amity keeper Grace Elizabeth Lodewick (6 saves) made the intial stop, but the ball popped out on the goall ine.
Panarella charged to the ball and got a foot on it, but Lodewick pounced just in time for the save to keep it a 1-0 game at the half.
In the second half, Southington simply exploded. Panarella hit the crossbar in the opening minutes, then hit net on her next chance, scoring from close range in the 44th minute to put Southington up 2-0. Wroblewski collected the assist.
“Our forwards were working well up top and it got laid out and I was just on top of it,” Panarella said. “This was huge. I’m happy to help this team get past the second round. I’m hoping we go really far.”
In the 48th minute, Sowa booted a free kick from 44 yards and put it right on the head of Allison Carr in the middle of a scrum in front of the Amity net. This redirect found the back of the net for a 3-0 lead.
“This was very much a team effort,” Carr said. “We didn’t want penalty kicks or overtime today; we wanted to win it regulation. We had to give it our all and we did. We’re excited for it to continue.”
Jessica Carr capped the scoring in the 78th minute with an assist from her big sister, Allison.
The four goals were the most for the Blue Knights since their 6-0 win over Rocky Hill on Oct. 25. Their scoring declined in the final two weeks of the regular season after junior Shannon Litchfield, one of their leading scorers, was lost to injury. Thurdsay’ saw a nice uptick for the Southington offense.
“I thought today showed me that we’ve found some answers for what we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks without Shannon,” Linehan said. “She meant so much to our offense, and our defense is always going to be solid. Defense and midfield play is our strength. Emma, Abby and Jess all were great in our midfield.
“You win it in the midfield,” Linehan added. “I thought we had the better game in the middle than they did. I thought that made the difference in the game.”
Emily Eigo made two saves in the shutout for Southington, which is seeking it’s first state title since sharing the Class LL banner with Fairfield in 2002.
“We are all about taking one game at a time and enjoying the moment,” Linehan said. “Even though we are the No. 1 seed, we know every day is a blessing and we don’t take anything for granted. We believe we can win it. There are a lot of teams that think that. We will take it one game at a time and, hopefully, on Saturday we can take one more step.”
No. 9 New Canaan 2, No. 8 Cheshire 0: In a battle of matching mascots, the visiting Rams of New Canaan scored a goal in each half to get past the Rams of Cheshire in the second round.
Cheshire struggled to generate offense for much of the game, though junior Ellie Pergolotti narrowly missed providing the equalizer in the second half, hitting the crossbar.
Goalie Seymone Rosenberg made 10 saves in defeat.
Cheshire closed the season at 14-4-2.