By Sean Krofssik
SOUTHINGTON — Alli Carr, Abby Sowa and Marissa Imme scored second-half goals to lift the Southington girls soccer team into the Class LL semifinals for the first time since 2006.
The unbeaten and top-seeded Blue Knights broke a scoreless tie at the half and earned a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 9 New Canaan at Fontana Field on Saturday afternoon.
“I think they are beginning to believe,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said. “That was one of the grittiest performances we’ve seen at this high school by this program in a while. That’s a very good good team. They tied Ridgefield and went through the FCIAC and only lost three games.”
With the fourth loss, New Canaan has been dispatched. Now awaiting Southington in the semifinals is Ridgefield, the two-time defending Class LL champion. The No. 5 Tigers defeated No. 4 St. Joseph 2-1 in Trumbull on Saturday.
Ridgefield goes into the semfinal, which will be played Tuesday at Naugatuck High School at 6:30 p.m., at 16-0-3. Southington, with Saturday’s win, is now 16-0-2.
“The first half was just a matter of us settling down,” Linehan said. “We came out with determination in the second half. We had great leadership from our three captains on the field. There are times where we were bending a little bit. We were against the wind in the second half and I was a little unsure but we held our composure.
“That’s a good team for us to play like we did. I’m really pleased.”
The Blue Knights came out of halftime with a surge of energy. They immediately threatened and almost as immediately cashed in. Morgan Hubert split two New Canaan defenders and kicked the ball toward the goal line. Carr was wide open to push it past goalie Emma Gibbens to give the Blue Knights a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
“I got the ball from Jess [Carr] in the midfield and I saw the defender on me and I just touched it around her and crossed it toward the goal and Alli put it in,” Hubert said.
Southington doubled the lead in the 63rd minute with a penalty kick from Sowa. The junior put it in the lower-right corner. The Blue Knights earned the PK on a handball in the box.
Imme capped the scoring in the 75th minute. Jess Carr created the chance down the left sideline. As a New Canaan defender went to the turf, Carr centered it to Imme, who used some fancy footwork to get around a defender before knocking it past Gibbens (6 saves).
The Blue Knights continued their defensive dominance with another shutout, their sixth in a row and 14th on the season. Southington has allowed only five goals all season. Netminder Emily Eigo collected five saves in the latest shutout.
“We’ve been playing really well together on defense,” senior Katherine Crouse said. “We play with a lot of heart to protect our keeper. We have a lot of talent up top and in the midfield, too. That helps.”
Eigo was tested, especially in the second half. The junior made a diving save on Kaleigh Harden in the 57th minute and, when the visitors threatened again in the 61st minute. Eigo dove on a loose ball after a close-range shot by Kennedy Kreutzer. The ball was temporarily jarred loose, but Eigo secured it.
Hubert made a great slide tackle in the box to quell another New Canaan opportunity to preserve the shutout.
“Whenever the defender is one on one, you have to go for it,” Hubert said. “I knew that was my opportunity to make the play.”
No. 2 Staples-Westport (16-0-2) and No. 3 Glastonbury (16-1-1) are in the other semifinal. That lone loss on Glastonbury’s ledger was to Southington, 3-0 on Oct. 18
Southington is seeking its second-ever state girls soccer crown. In 2002, the Lady Knights shared the Class LL title with Fairfield after the two teams played to a scoreless tie in the finals at Willow Brook Park.
Interestingly, that 2002 Southington team was also 16-0-2 going into its semfinal.
The Knights do have some recent history with Ridgefield. The Tigers knocked off Southington 2-1 in the second round two years ago in Ridgefield en route to the 2017 state title. The Tigers have made the Class LL championship game in each of the last four seasons.
“It’s a lot of fun and next year could be different, and what we are trying to do is to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us,” Linehan said.