BERLIN - The Newington girls soccer team needed just six minutes to do what no other team had done against Berlin all season.
After being pinned in the defensive zone for nearly the entire first half of Monday’s match, Newington came out of the halftime break clinging to a scoreless tie, though the Redcoats had a number of chances to take the lead. But thanks to a second-half surge of three goals in that six-minute span, Newington advanced to the championship round of the CCC’s Region D tournament with a 5-1 win.
It was the first time all year Berlin allowed more than one goal in a game.
“I was just happy,” Newington senior Emily Chojnicki said. “It’s been a rough couple days and a rough season. But we kept saying that hard work pays off and we deserved this.”
Those rough couple of days included four Newington players, three of them starters, being forced to quarantine over the weekend due to a potential covid-19 exposure. But the shorthanded Newington team weathered a furious storm of scoring chances from Berlin in the first half before exploding in the second, stunning the Redcoats in what was round four of this head-to-head matchup.
“At halftime we just realized that it could be our last game,” Chojnicki said. “We could wake up tomorrow and find out we have to be quarantined. You just don’t know. We had to play like it was our last game and we picked it up.”
Chojnicki picked the team up in the opening minutes of the second half, when fellow senior Olivia Mullings helped get the ball in deep before being cut off by the Berlin defense. Mullings then tapped a pass back to Chojnicki, who in one motion, fielded the pass with her back to the net before turning and launching a high-arching shot over the head of Katrina Chorzepa in net and under the crossbar to put Newington in front.
“I don’t even know how it went in to be honest,” Chojnicki said. “But I would not have got the goal had it not been for my teammates.” Newington, having suddenly grabbed momentum, went right back on the attack two minutes later, when a corner kick try found Mullings in front, and the All-State senior banged an untouched shot past a diving Chorzepa to lift Newington from defending a barrage of scoring chances to a 2-0 lead in a blink.
“We work on those corner kicks every year,” Newington head coach Adam Wilkinson said. “That was the second time in nine years that we actually scored off of it. Sometimes you rehearse and rehearse and it pays off.” The scoring wave continued minutes later when another corner kick found Maren Amuso, who fired a turnaround shot that lifted over the leap of Chorzepa and into the back of the net, a carbon copy shot of Chojnicki’s goal, to extend the lead to 3-0.
In the previous three meetings between Newington and Berlin this season, a total of two goals were scored. Newington eclipsed that mark on its own in a span of six minutes.
“Give credit to Adam and Newington,” Berlin head coach Alex Joslyn said. “I think in the second half, they wanted it more than us. I think it was a tale of two halves.”
The Redcoats, suddenly laboring for scoring chances that seemingly came with ease in the first half, tried to respond when Jenna Zup nearly got Berlin on the board with 21 minutes left, but her high shot was deflected off the crossbar by a leaping Ella Depase in net. Depase whiffed on catching the ensuing corner kick, but an alert Michelle Novikova cleared away a shot that would have rolled into the previously vacated net. The Redcoats broke the shutout with 15 minutes left when a streaking Jenna Wenzel sent a centering pass to Kylie Jefferson, who pounded a shot inside the far post to trim the lead to two. It was immediately returned to three 40 seconds later when a Mullings shot was slowed by Chorzepa in net, but Olivia Bernier chased down the loose ball and tapped it home to make it 4-1 Newington.
“Once it became 3-0, we changed formations and started playing with three defenders in the back, since we figured ‘why not?’” Joslyn said. “Once we got the first one in, we needed two more, so we continued to play with two defenders in the back. That definitely opened it up for them and they just wanted it more.”
One minute later, Newington struck again when Mullings streaked down the left side and just beat a diving Chorzepa to a loose ball, and Mullings sent it across to a charging Amuso, who banged in Newington’s fifth goal of the half and continue a shocking turnaround that followed what was a dormant first half.
“We were getting beat through the midfield,” Wilkinson said of the lopsided first half that belonged to Berlin. “Their center midfielder was breaking through too easily, so I made a couple adjustments and the girls responded really well.”
Newington now awaits the winner of fourth-seeded Maloney and top-seeded Wethersfield in the championship. Wethersfield is undefeated on the season and beat Newington twice this year, including a 3-2 victory in the regular season finale.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com
NO. 3 NEWINGTON 5, NO. 2 BERLIN 1
First round, CCC Region D Tournament
At Sage Park, Berlin
Goals: Maren Amuso (N) 2, Olivia Mullings (N), Emily Chojnicki (N), Olivia Bernier (N), Kylie Jefferson (B).
Records: Newington 9-3-1, Berlin 7-3-3.