SOUTHINGTON — There is no Glastonbury on the schedule this year. No Hall. No Conard.
There are simply none of the usual showdowns for the Southington girls soccer team in this season of the pandemic with its shorter calendar and regional pods.
Save for one: Farmington.
The one division rival that remains on the schedule is the one that will provide the toughest tests for the Lady Knights, who in a normal season would be bidding for a return to the state finals.
With no state tournament in the offing, it is Farmington that will provide the measure of just how good the 2020 Blue Knights are.
The first read? Pretty dang good. Southington scored a 2-0 victory over the Indians on Thursday at Fontana Field.
While the ambience shifted, with a sun-splashed fall afternoon giving way to cooler twilight, the action on the pitch did not. Southington controlled play for most of the night,
Allison Carr and Maya Wroblewski had the goals, both coming in the second half, and goalie Emily Eigo pitched another shutout behind a rock wall of a defense that features Marisa Imme, Chloe Bauman, Riley Prozzo and Lauren Verrilli.
Southington is now 6-0, with 25 goals on the season and none allowed. This latest shutout win came against a Farmington squad that arrived in Southington at 4-0-1.
“The competition of today’s game, this is what we were expecting every game this year,” said Southington coach Mike Linehan, who led his team to the 2019 Class LL finals. “To play at that elite level: That’s what this group has trained four years to get to. Today was a good reminder. We wanted to be able to play teams like that every single game.”
Thursday’s clash could very well prove to be the first of three against Farmington. The two teams close the regular season going head to head at Tunxis Mead on Nov. 5 and are a good bet to collide in the pod championship game in the Central Connecticut Conference postseason (see related story).
“I told the girls before the game today, ‘This is a state tournament game; this is the highefst calbier that we get to play,’” said Farmington coach Max Fantl. “We look forward to when they come to us and to have another battle. This is what Connecticut girls soccer is all about. Games like this.”
The Lady Knights certainly had the upper hand Thursday, outshooting their guests 19-2. Yet those two Farmington chances were extremely dangerous and would have changed the complexion of the game if converted.
Exhibit A: a partial breakaway in the final minute of the first half that Eigo charged and deflected wide. Eigo also corralled the ensuing corner kick to keep the game scoreless at intermission.
Farmington came out strong out of the break, but as the second half wore on the Blue Knights continued to flood the offensive zone and finally finished their chances.
Carr broke the deadlock with 22:34 to play. Taking a throw-in, the senior moved along the top the box, patiently waited for the ideal time to turn and beat her defender, then rifled a bullet so tight into the upper left corner that it kissed the pipes.
”First one I’ve had like that since — for the season actually,” said Carr, who has returned to action from an ACL tear suffered last winter in basketball.
Carr is back 100 percent physically. The mental aspect of returning from major injury, though, is still a work in progress.
“There have been some setbacks. My mind is my biggest one, I think,” said Carr. “I”m pushing through, but sometimes I’m going on the sideline and I’m like, ‘Shoot, I can’t cut this.’ That inner battle with myself. ‘I’m OK,’ is what I have to tell myself. ‘I’m strong; I’m healthy.’ So, yeah, that felt good for me.”
Wroblewski also had to exert patience on her goal. Taking a lead pass out of the midfield from Jess Carr, the junior had to resist the urge to shoot right away.
“My first thought was, ‘Do not blast it over, do not blast it over,’” Wroblewski said. “I headed it forward and it just went on my foot really perfectly.”
Working from a tough angle, Wroblewski ripped a shot from about 20 yards. It did not blast over the net. It found the left side of the twine with 14:53 to play.
By then, the Blue Knights were really buzzing behind Wroblewski, the Carr sisters, Shannon Litchfield and fellow senior Morgan Hubert flying up out of the midfield.
Even Verrilli, though playing D, would deploy her speed when an opportunity to attack presented itself.
In the center of it all? Senior midfielder Abigial Sowa, the All-Stater and reigning Record-Journal Player of the Year who is heading to East Carolina.
All around, the Blue Knights are solid and technically sound at all positions. Deep, too: seniors Micaela Potamis, Brianna Linehan, Savannah Krom and junior Nina Muir all played extended minutes and maintained the same elevated level of play.
On Thursday, it added up to a thorough victory in what was Southington’s biggest game to date.
“We were all excited for this game,” said Wroblewski. “We knew they’d be a challenge. They’re a tough team, they’re physical, they’re great on the ball. We knew we had to raise our level a bit.
“We enjoyed it; we like games like this. Games where we can compete.”
In the bigger picture, the simple chance to just play amid a pandemic was cause for emotion.
“I’m almost in tears because of the fact that I never thought we’d be here, that we’d be in a position where we’re playing soccer,” said Coach Linehan. “This is a blessing.”