BERLIN - The Berlin girls soccer team hasnâ€™t seen a championship round of the Class M tournament since 1998. This year, itâ€™s looking to change that.
But it will be a challenge as the Redcoats (11-8) face top-seeded Lewis Mills (18-0-0) in the semifinals tonight at Middletown High School. The match is set to start at 6:30 p.m.
Last season, Berlin only made it as far as the second round when it fell to Daniel Hand 1-0. In 2015, the Redcoats managed to make it to the Class L semifinals but lost to Suffield 3-1.
For the Redcoats today, the game plan is simple according to first-year head coach Katie Amenta - just play hard.
â€śAs simple as that sounds, the pep talk [Monday] and pregame [today] is just if you want it, if you're going to fight for it. Any team at this point is good,â€ť Amenta said. â€śAny top four teams are phenomenal and a lot of times it comes down to pure heart and who's going to fight for it.â€ť
Lewis Mills has just recently changed from the Berkshire League to the Central Connecticut Conference this year and although the Redcoats and the Spartans are not in the same division, itâ€™ll be interesting to see how the two teams matchup on the field.
â€śThey're a strong, dominate team,â€ť Amenta said. â€śObviously, coming in as the No. 1 seed, it'll be a good, tough game. We don't see the same competition, so it'll be interesting, as weâ€™ve seen in the past few games as well, just how two teams compare in different leagues.â€ť
The two teams have taken different paths through the tournament and the season.
As the 20 seed, Berlin upset No. 13 East Catholic 2-0 in the first round, before beating Platt Tech 7-0 in the second round and beating Cromwell 2-1 on Saturday in the quarterfinals after Julia Sisti scored the game winner with nine seconds remaining.
Lewis Mills, meanwhile, earned a bye in the first round and then went on to beat No.17 Ellington 4-2 in Round 2 before topping No. 9 Morgan 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
And as the Spartans rolled through their regular season, the Redcoats were up and down.
Berlin started its season off strong with two back-to-back shutout wins against Maloney (7-0) and Platt (6-0) before dropping its first match of the season after a 1-0 loss to the defending Class LL champion, Glastonbury.
After that loss the Redcoats seemed to turn things around, winning their next three games. But then they hosted RHAM, starting a five-match skid.
Something had to change.
â€śWe were struggling in the middle of the season just putting the ball away, scoring goals,â€ť Amenta said. â€śWe were strong defensively, but we just couldn't find some offense. But then towards the end of the seasons something clicked, and we started finding the net.â€ť
In its last seven matches - during which, Berlin has gone 5-2 - the team has scored 29 times.
To make sure things stay that way, the Redcoats have been working on communication over the last couple of days, to make sure they perform as one unit on the field.
â€śKnowing where each other is on the field is a huge factor,â€ť striker Maxine Muscatello said.
But Berlin believes it is ready for Lewis Mills, a team that has scored 83 goals during the regular season and seven goals in two state tournament games.
â€śWe come to practice every day focused, we worked hard, we worked on working together, weâ€™re just ready for [today],â€ť Sisti said.
Sisti said their focus for todayâ€™s game is to win as many balls in the air as the Redcoats can and to play high pressure.
â€śThat has been working really well for us we just need to make sure we keep doing that,â€™ Sisti said. â€śItâ€™s how I think we're going to win the game.â€ť
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org