NEW BRITAIN - In a span of two minutes, the Goodwin Tech girls soccer team watched a potential game-tying goal turn into a three-goal deficit in Wednesday’s first-ever home game as a varsity program.
Trailing Bullard Havens Tech 2-1 in the final minutes of play, Asia Vibert broke ahead of the Tigers’ defense and tried to get off what would have been a tying score, but instead the ball glanced off the bottom of her foot and rolled harmlessly into the lap of Bullard Havens Tech goalkeeper Jenifer Cuautie.
Seconds later, the Tigers knocked in back-to-back goals to take a 4-1 win and hand Goodwin Tech (2-1) its first loss of its first season.
“That was brutal,” Gladiators head coach Chris Lynch said of the drastic momentum shift. “I came in with realistic expectations, and then all of a sudden we have a chance to win. But you could just see the tired legs, because all of a sudden (Bullard Havens Tech) broke right through, which you hadn’t seen the whole game.”
Following Vibert’s breakaway, the Tigers marched down the field behind Gina Baculima, who poked in her second goal of the game less than 20 seconds before Aniyah Araujo drilled in her second tally of the afternoon to quickly turn a 2-1 dogfight into a 4-1 cushion.
“It was demoralizing, but overall we’re leaving with the thought that it was more or less a 2-1 game,” Lynch said. “Yes, we got tired late, but we played good overall.”
The Gladiators’ fatigue was apparent down the stretch, but the newly formed team kept its focus on the first 75 minutes of play rather than the rough ending, which didn’t properly portray how competitive the game was for its majority.
“Overall, we’re thrilled,” Lynch said. “Yeah, we won the first two games (of the season), but we knew the competition wasn’t quite what this was. We knew they have a lot of genuine soccer players, a lot of athletes and a lot of speed.”
Bullard Havens Tech showed off that speed towards the midway point of the first half, turning up the pressure and breaking through on a Goodwin Tech miscue. After two shots by Nataly Asencio were denied by goalkeeper Syrina Lorenzo, a goal kick was mishandled just outside the 18-yard box, and Araujo picked up the loose ball and drove a shot just under the crossbar to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 25 minutes left in the first half.
Goodwin Tech went for the equalizer when sophomore Ericka Aponte grabbed a free ball and got a solid shot on goal, but Cuautie was perfectly positioned to make the save and preserve the lead for Bullard Havens Tech.
The lead grew for the Tigers with 11 minutes left in the first half, when Erika Zhispon dropped a pass to Baculima, who buried it into a wide open net after another loose ball in front of the Gladiators’ net was picked up by Bullard Havens Tech as Lorenzo looked to kick it away, extending the lead to 2-0.
“She’s a great athlete with a lot of toughness, but just a little improvement in decision-making will go a long way for her,” Lynch said of his inexperienced goalkeeper, who just learned the position last year.
Senior Faith Chambers answered right back minutes later for the Gladiators, taking it herself before blasting Goodwin Tech’s first goal past Cuautie, who had no chance to make the stop.
“It was really exciting,” Chambers said of the team’s first-ever home goal. “I promised myself I’d try to help the team as much as I could. I was happy because we were getting a little discouraged before that goal, and it picked everybody up.”
Jinalexania Rivera had a quality chance to tie the game in the second half, but her shot was deflected by Cuautie and rolled just wide of the net. It was Goodwin Tech’s last chance before the wild final minutes that turned a competitive game into a deceivingly cozy victory for Bullard Havens Tech, which spoiled the team’s introduction to its home fans, but only on the scoreboard.
“I think we did really well, but we still need to work on some things,” Chambers said. “We need to understand our positions a little more and be more aggressive, but overall we did pretty good. We didn’t get what we wanted to get, but we came away with something that we can improve on.”