SOUTHINGTON - Natalie Verderame scored two minutes into the first half and the No. 10-seed Southington girls soccer team’s defense held solid for a 1-0 victory over No. 23 Hall in the first round of the Class LL tournament on Tuesday afternoon.
The Blue Knights (12-3-2) advance to face No. 7 Ridgefield (11-2-3) on Thursday at 2 p.m.
The last time Southington advanced past the first round of the Class LL tournament was in 2008, but then it fell in the second to Glastonbury.
“It wasn’t a good relief, everything just drained out of me for a second,” Verderame said after scoring the lone goal of the game. “But, then I just got it right back.”
The Blue Knights’ offense controlled the time of possession for the entire length of the first half.
“High pressure up top eliminates options for the other team,” Southington head coach Mike Linehan said.
“It’s just a style of play that we really brought together this year, and I think that was a huge part of our success.”
In the first half, Southington had 15 attempts on goal. Kelly Dolye fed the ball to Verderame, which gave the Blue Knights the one-goal advantage.
Previously this season, the Blue Knights had seen Hall twice on the pitch.
“We kind of know each other very, very well,” Linehan said. “Our strategy was to stick with our game plan.”
A game plan which has proven to be very successful for Southington.
“We thought that we would be able to stay with them and I thought we did,” Linehan said. “We started off the game very well. This is the first time I thought we jumped out of the box really well on them. We got the early goal.”
The Warriors came into the second half ready to play. Although the intensity heightened, Hall was still unable to score in its six attempts.
Goalkeeper Olivia Sherwood denied back-to-back shots at the 23:50 mark, which were crucial stops for the Blue Knights. Sherwood turned down every shot thrown her way, accounting for seven saves on the evening.
“I think we lost a little bit of our composure a little bit. They pressed on us,” Linehan said. “Their play went from a 4-5-1, so they loaded up their midfield. I thought they started to possess the ball more. If you look at possession, first half, second half, we possessed more the first half they definitely possessed more the second half.”
“I didn’t go in thinking it would be easy,” Verderame said. “I had confidence, but not too much to where it would get to our heads. I felt as though it would be a good turnout regardless, win or loss, but it wasn’t a normal game. It was a great experience and now we’re onto the second game.”