SOUTHINGTON — Shannon Litchfield has been a difference-maker on the field for Southington soccer and now the scoring machine will be playing Division I soccer.
Litchfield signed with the University of Albany on Dom’s Way outside of Southington High School on Thursday afternoon.
She was flanked by her parents, Scott and Mary Ellen, as well as by her sister Johannah at the ceremony. A strong collection of her teammates was also on hand to support.
It was a triumphant moment in a career that was nearly derailed by a broken leg Litchfield suffered late in the 2019 season.
“I was a little worried with a broken leg in my junior year and because with coronavirus we weren’t able to go to any showcases. I was worried I wasn’t going to get as much exposure,” Litchfield said.
Litchfield said she had established a rapport with Albany coach Leigh Howard when she was at Marist, her previous coaching post. Litchfield reached out to Howard after she moved on to Albany.
“I went for a visit and liked the campus and it was a done deal from there,” Litchfield said.
She also was considering Holy Cross, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Seton Hall and UConn.
Litchfield will enter Albany as an undecided major, though she will eventually go into a science-related field.
Litchfield was a four-year starter in Southington. She finished her career with 45 goals and 22 assists. Here’s the year-by-year breakdown:
■Freshman: 8 goals, 3 assists;■Sophomore: 15 goals, 7 assists;■Junior: 9 goals, 7 assists;■Senior: 13 goals, 5 assists.
“One of the best,” said Southington coach Mike Linehan. “When you look at the program before she started to where it is today, she’s had a tremendous impact on the field. She’s scored more goals than anyone has in a four-year period at Southington that I can remember.”
Linehan said Litchfield influences the game regardless if she scores or not. Her presence alone makes opposing teams play differently.
“Her ability to break down defense is impressive,” Linehan said. “On the other side, you have to be mindful of her constantly. I think it was the key in the state final last year. She wasn’t on the field.”
Southington lost that 2019 Class LL state final 1-0 to Glastonbury. Litchfield was unavailable. She had suffered her broken leg several weeks earlier in Farmington.
“It was one of the most serious injuries I’ve seen for a player,” Linehan said. “She crossed the box and collided with the goalie and broke her tibia and tibia. They were shattered and were coming out of the skin.
“At one point, you don't know if she’s going to recover. She has two rods in her right leg.”
The recovery stretched over seven months for Litchfield. She was at Veterans Stadium in New Britain, on crutches, the night of the Class LL final.
Linehan noted that Southington had defeated Glastonbury 3-0 earlier in the season, yet didn’t score in the final without Litchfield in the lineup.
“In my mind, that was a game-changer for our season,” Linehan said. “She was so involved in creating goals and was a defensive nightmare for others.”
Linehan said Litchfield started slow in her senior year, but she finished with a team-high 13 goals as Southington went 14-0-0 and won CCC Region B crown. She had a career-high four goals in her high school finale in a regional final against Lewis Mills, a game Southington won 6-0 to cap the perfect season.
“The injury impacted her at the start psychologically,” Linehan said. “She just needed time to recover physically and mentally, and she had a big senior year in a shortened season. She scored 13 goals and would have been well into the 20’s if we had a full year.
“I joked with Shannon that she gives defenders nightmares after defending her all game.”
Litchfield’s goals are typically rockets.
“She will score that unbelievable goal when you need it,” Linehan said. “I’ve seen Shannon play since she was small because she’s my daughter’s age, and I remember a goal she launched in the U12 State Cup finals. You could tell early she was a Division-I type talent. She’s a goalies nightmare.”
“I like to have the ball at my feet and I like going 2-v-2 at players with a teammate,” Litchfield said. “I could have never scored any goals without my teammates. I’ve just been the one that touches it last.”
Litchfield, 18, was an All-Conference selection three times. She as also All-State honorable mention. She was named All-Record-Journal as both a junior and a senior.
A major part of Litchfield’s game is her ability to score with both feet, a skill her father Scott instilled in her starting when she was 8-years old. Even players and coaches with the most skilled eye for the game have to ask her if she’s lefty or righty.
In signing with Albany, Litchfield makes it two from Southington’s girls soccer class of 2021 heading to a Division I program. All-New England midfielder Abby Sowa has signed with East Carolina.
Don’t be surprised if the number increases to at least three. Allison Carr has Division I offers and could be the next. Goalie Emily Eigo is another Lady Knight flying high on the college radar.
Simply said, Southington was dominant in 2020. The Blue Knights scored 64 goals and allowed just five. The Southington seniors have had a big hand in a 58-7-4 record over the last four years.
“When we came in as freshmen, Coach Mike said that we could change a lot of things in the program,” Litchfield said. “We have been able to change a lot here. We didn’t get that that championship that we wanted, but it was a great run.”