NEWINGTON – All it took was one goal Wednesday afternoon to get a winner between No. 5 Newington and No. 12 Fairfield Warde, and the Mustangs found it in the final 10 minutes of play to advance them in the CIAC’s Class LL girls soccer tournament.
Molly Coyne’s high, looping kick from outside the box in the 71st minute was able to get up and over the outstretched hands of Newington keeper Ella DePase to find twine. The goal led to her being mobbed by her teammates, who knew it was likely going to be the game-winner.
A contest that saw strong defense from Newington all day also saw it struggle to get a consistent attack together. Occasional runs on offense and opportunities on through balls created chances in the first half, including one opportunity where the Nor’easters had a chance to score off a shot deflection, but nothing was successful.
"We had a couple of opportunities. …. A little lack of quality in the front third, it changes it,” said Newington head coach Adam Wilkinson. “One of those goes in, we can exhale. …. You give yourself that leeway."
In the second half the defense again worked on its heels while the offense had limited chances, with poor possession leading to the Nor’easters being unable to develop anything down the field.
“Second half we definitely struggled to put anything together. They made an adjustment and changed their formation and it kind of cut off our avenues to the outside. We had trouble retaining possession of the ball but I still thought defensively we were solid.”
Newington never had the wiggle room in a game where the slightest margin or error could be costly. For the Nor’easters the mistake to put them behind was not actually a fault of their own as much as it was a poor crossing attempt by Coyne.
“They're a good, big and physical team and I thought we matched that very well, but it's just small margins,” said Wilkinson. “For a mishit cross to decide the game, maybe that's the way it was going to be."
Coyne’s score was an intended crosser from the far-side of the field that had Mustang attackers Sam Matturro and Theresa Coyne near the ball. The goal was one of nine shots on goal that Newington’s DePase was unable to turn aside in a stellar performance.
In the final minutes down one, DePase took a save off the face to keep the game close and give her teammates an opportunity to find the equalizer. Instead of splitting the game with Brianna Norton like she has in the past, DePase played all 80 minutes in the game.
"It's normally her and Bri Norton that split time. Bri was sick this morning and Ella stepped up,” said Wilkinson.” I have trust in both her and Bri, neither one is above the other, ... today, Ella stood on her head. ... Other than the one goal, she's pulling saves out and keeping things tidy back there. … The one at the end where Ella saves it off her face, it that's the goal that decides it I can kind of accept that a little more. It's a bit gut wrenching when it's a cross that's lost and floating into the top corner. You'd rather it be a fantastic goal that beat you, but it's the way it is."
Newington bows out of postseason play with a season record of 10-3-3 with seven seniors departing the club.