BERLIN - The Berlin boys soccer teamâ€™s Senior Night got off to a picture-perfect beginning with an early goal from one of its graduating contributors, but South Windsor grabbed all the momentum shortly after and handed the Redcoats a narrow loss to end a frustrating season.
Berlin (2-13-1) took a 1-0 lead on senior Jeffrey Bengiovanniâ€™s goal less than five minutes into the match, but the Bobcats (8-6-2) responded by outshooting the Redcoats 10-3 the rest of the way and leaving with a 2-1 win.
â€śTheyâ€™re a solid team, but they started slow,â€ť Berlin head coach Sal Parafati said. â€śOnce they picked up the pace, it was pretty evenly matched.â€ť
The Redcoats applied early pressure and almost broke through with just four minutes burned off the game clock. After coming up short on an odd-man rush to the net, sophomore Adam Kozubal fielded a pass and launched a long distance shot from straight on that was tipped by a leaping Michel Pandiscia in net for South Windsor, and the ricochet landed wide of the net.
One minute later, Bengiovanni settled down a high-arching pass from midfield, and as Pandiscia hustled out of his net to try and disrupt a potential shot, Begiovanni lifted a lob over Pandisciaâ€™s reach, dropping in the first goal of the night to give the Redcoats a 1-0 lead with 34:40 left in the half and their first goal in three games.
â€śIt felt like a fairy tale,â€ť Bengiovanni said. â€śI didnâ€™t score the entire season, and the last game I play I was able to score. It was really nice.â€ť
The early chances continued for Berlin moments later when a deflection fell into the lap of freshman Colby Nardelli, but this time Pandiscia exited his net in time and stopped the shot from point blank range to prevent a disastrous start for the Bobcats.
South Windsorâ€™s scoring attack came alive shortly after Pandisciaâ€™s save, generating a corner kick chance with 30 minutes left in the half. Jonathan Rossetti sent the corner to the front of the net and to the foot of Israel de Oliveria, but his tap-in try was tipped wide of the net by Berlin goalkeeper Zach Cancellieri.
The ensuing corner try sailed through the penalty area untouched, and the Redcoats escaped the threat, but they wouldnâ€™t come away from the next chance unscathed.
The Bobcats kept the field titled towards Cancellieri and broke through with 24:13 remaining when Dante Merlin sent across a centering pass to a wide open de Oliveria, who drilled a shot inside the near post to tie the match at one apiece.
South Windsor continued to dominate ball possession through the first half, and almost took the lead on a shot from Merlin that banged off the post with just under three minutes remaining, and the score remained even heading into the break.
â€śI feel like we played our best,â€ť Bengiovanni said of the swift momentum swing. â€śIâ€™m not really sure what went wrong, but we all played really hard.â€ť
The Bobcats opened the second half by further peppering Cancellieri in net. After a botched corner kick try resulted in a turnover, South Windsorâ€™s Nicholas Gattuso broke past the Redcoats defense and fired off a sliding shot, but it was tipped and eventually smothered by a sliding Cancellieri, who had two make three saves in the first eight minutes of the half.
Berlin continued to fight off the relentless pressure, but eventually caved with 27:19 left in the game. After the Redcoatsâ€™ first shot on net since Nardelliâ€™s chance early in the first half, South Windsor flipped the field and de Oliveria surprised the Redcoats defense when he fired a high shot from far outside the penalty area, tucking it just underneath the crossbar and out of the reach of Cancellieri and giving the Bobcats the 2-1 lead on de Oliveriaâ€™s second tally of the evening.
â€śWe werenâ€™t marking properly on that first goal, but that second goal was just an amazing shot,â€ť Parafati said.
Berlin finally settled down South Windsorâ€™s scoring attack, but managed few chances of its own in the second half. A final opportunity was thwarted with less than five minutes to go when a free kick was headed toward the far post by Ethan Naumann, but Pandiscia hurried over to knock it wide of the goal and end Senior Night on a much different note than it began.
â€śI just really wanted them to have fun and go out on a high note,â€ť Parafati said of his seven seniors. â€śEven though they didnâ€™t go out the way they wanted to, they can still walk away feeling like they accomplished something.â€ť