SOUTHINGTON — There were tears a year ago when an undefeated season was denied in the state finals.
There were tears again Friday night when an undefeated season was seen all the way through.
Of course there were tears. Who in the world of Southington girls soccer would ever want this to end?
The Blue Knights, led by a checkered senior class playing together for the final time, capped a spotless 14-0-0 season under the lights of Fontana Field on Friday night with a 6-0 victory over Lewis Mills.
It wasn’t a state final. It was the CCC Region B championship game, a consolation prize in a season denied a state tournament by the coronavirus pandemic.
But it was still the crowning jewel for a season that managed to be played from start to finish, and played almost flawlessly by a team that goes into the Southington High books as the first girls soccer squad to go unbeaten and untied in a season.
Even the vaunted 2002 team, which earned a share of the Class LL state title at 17-0-3, can’t lay claim to that.
The 2020 Blue Knights scored 64 goals. They allowed just five.
They started the year knowing they wouldn’t be playing for a state title at the end of the line, yet made it a point to just win everything that was out there to be won.
And they did. Did we miss anything?
“No, we didn’t miss anything,” said coach Mike Linehan. “But I’m certainly going to miss them.”
A pause. A longer pause. “It’s hard,” Linehan said. “Thank God I have this mask on.
“Because it’s not what we do on the field, it’s the friendships we have off the field. My daughter’s a part of this group and it’s an amazing group. We’ve shared a lot of laughs off the field and you’ve seen what they can do on the field. I’m just blessed that they had an opportunity this year to play, to be together and for the CIAC to give us an opportunity to at least have some kind of tournament.
”Last year at this time we weren’t as happy as we are today. For them to be able to finish their four years with this type of celebration, no matter what it is, it means a lot to them.”
Friday’s finale was, in particular, a fitting curtain call for senior tri-captain Shannon Litchfield. A year ago, the high-scoring forward broke her leg late in the season and missed the championship game against Glastonbury. Her absence was keenly felt in a 1-0 defeat.
This year, Litchfield came back and, along the way, scored against the opponent and on the very same field where she suffered the broken leg. On Friday, she went wild, scoring four of Southington’s goals.
Litchfield made it look easy, flying down the left wing and running onto through balls and deking defenders. Yet the road back was never easy, even after the season began.
“I’m just so happy I was able to come back and not be afraid,” Litchfield said, and then she, too, had to pause, just like her coach. “I’m just really proud of myself for making it back. The first couple of games were tough. To end on this note is wonderful.”
Litchfield got Southington going in the 22nd minute, finishing off a feed from Chloe Bauman.
Remarkably, for a game that ended 6-0, it was just 1-0 at the half. Lewis Mills (10-3-1) was a very worthy finalist. The Harwinton-Burlington squad had knocked off Farmington 3-1 in the semifinals and lacked not a jot in technique.
The Blue Knights, though, came at the Spartans in blue waves. Southington is fast and deep and, as the game spilled into the second half, simply carved up Lewis Mills.
The ever-hustling Morgan Hubert pushed the lead to 2-0 8½ minutes into the second half off a steal and short dish from Micaela Potamis.
Over the final 18:37, Southington scored four more goals. Litchfield had three of them, each time tracking down a lead pass and breaking in.
Fellow senior captain Allison Carr also scored. She lined up a free kick from the right side about 30 yards out and ripped a rope to the far side.
At the other end, Lewis Mills did test Emily Eigo on occasion, but Eigo (10 saves) held steady with the help of back-liners Marisa Imme, Lauren Verrilli, Bauman and Riley Prozzo.
Feeding the flow on offense and shoring up the defense was the ubiquitous center midfielder, senior captain Abigail Sowa.
“They’re a great team. They had a lot of strong players, but we were just on tonight,” said Sowa. “I think we came in ready to go. It started in warmups. We were ready to go from the start. We had that mindset we were going to win.”
Sowa is the reigning Record-Journal Player of the Year. She’ll be playing a year from now at East Carolina University.
Sowa is one of 11 seniors who will be graduating. But aside from the end of one chapter, there really isn’t much to mourn in Southington girls soccer.
”They’re in good hands,” Sowa said of the program she’ll be departing. “There’s a lot of talent behind us.”