SOUTHINGTON - After two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtime periods, and two rounds of penalty kicks, the third-seeded Southington girls soccer team found itself in a position it did not want to be in: heading home after its first state tournament game.
The third-ranked Blue Knights watched No. 19 Simsbury celebrate on their home field after falling 1-0 in the second round of the Class LL tournament Wednesday afternoon, following a 6-4 decision in penalty kicks.
Devyn Lattone and Ainsley Barlow came through with the winning kicks for the Trojans.
“We knew going into the tournament we had to be penalty kick ready,” Southington head coach Michael Linehan said. “We practiced and practiced. I was disappointed because I thought we could have won it in the first five.”
The two teams met at half field prior to the first round of penalty kicks while each team picked their five shooters.
For the Blue Knights, Abby Sowa and Kathrine Crouse shot past Simsbury goalkeeper Madeline Brooke. But the Trojans also shot two past Southington keeper Olivia Sherwood, tying the first round 2-2 and forcing another round of penalty kicks.
After both teams failed the first penalty kick in the second round, Simsbury’s Payton Aresnault and Southington’s Natalie Verderame both found the back of the net. Shortly after, Lattone and Barlow ended the game, on shots to the bottom left corner of the net.
“We came in thinking we would make it really far [in the tournament],” Sherwood said. “We knew we had a good defense and a good offense, we just wish we went farther. We didn’t think we’d get down to PKs, but that’s what happened.”
But had it not been for Sherwood, the Blue Knights would have not been in a position to win the game. The senior made 10 saves, including a number of crucial ones late to send the game into overtime.
“I talked to [Sherwood] before the game and I told her, ‘you’re going to have a moment,’” Linehan said. “She always does. Every game she has that big moment and today she did. She was right for it.”
Midway through the second half, Sherwood threw her body at the ball to block the shot, but “her moment” as Linehan said, came near the end of the game. With just 2:24 left, Sherwood made a driving saves near the right side of the net, blocking the ball with both hands and keeping the score at 0-0.
“Olivia had a great game,” Verderame said. “She’s very inspiring because I’ve seen her grow from freshman till now and she’s the best goalie I have ever seen from everyone I’ve played with. This was one of her best games all year.”
The Blue Knights were in a defensive battle right from the get-go.
In just the first half alone, Southington only produce four shots on goal, while Simsbury had five. In the second half, the Blue Knights were more aggressive when it came to attacking the goal. But even with 10 shots on goal, they were unable to find the back of the net.
“It was very physical towards the end,” sophomore Alli Carr said. “Everyone was stressed and wanted to win. However, everyone played their hearts out and worked as hard as they can. Honestly, there’s nothing we could have done differently. What happens, happens. You win some you lose some and we just happened to lose.”
Still, the loss stung, especially after falling in the second round of the state tournament last season and going 15-1 this year in the regular season.
“You learn from your wins and you learn from your losses,” Linehan said. “So today we learned a lot. What we’re going to miss today is our seniors. That’s what we’ll miss. For the rest of them we’ll immediately start thinking about next year.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org