SOUTHINGTON - The Southington girls soccer team has found itself in an unfamiliar spot. And for the Blue Knights, that certainly is not a bad thing.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Southington will play in the second round of the LL tournament, its first trip since 2008, after a 1-0 win over Hall Tuesday night.
The Blue Knights will now travel to No. 7 Ridgefield this afternoon for a 4 p.m. match. The Tigers (13-2-3) will be a test for Southington (12-3-2), which has not seen a deep run in the postseason since 2002 when it tied with Fairfield in the title game.
“We need to work on being composed,” said Blue Knights freshman Natalie Verderame, who scored the lone goal on Tuesday. “Having composure, not forcing it too much, not panicking, because we need to know it is a game of soccer, it’s not life or death right there.”
But Southington has done plenty to establish itself this season. The Blue Knights have shut out opponents 10 times this season, with Tuesday’s match being No. 11, while outscoring other teams 53-10.
Southington has also proven its pace of play has been a huge contributor to the team’s success. The Blue Knights use a high pressure system, which eliminates options for other teams.
“It’s just a style of play that we really brought together this year,” Southington head coach Mike Linehan said. “I think that was a huge part of our success.”
Against the Warriors, the Blue Knights controlled possession of the ball the entire length of the first half and capitalized on an opportunity early when Verderame scored the match’s lone goal two minutes in.
“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.”
But it was evident Southington was losing momentum in the second half and the Blue Knights needed to play tough defense to hold onto their slim lead.
“Their play went from a 4-5-1, so they loaded up their midfield,” Linehan said. “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.”
The good news for Southington was it had Olivia Sherwood in goal. The keeper denied all shots thrown her way Tuesday evening, included a pair of back-to-back attempts which were vital saves for the Blue Knights. Sherwood accounted for seven saves total.
It also helped this was the third time Southington has faced Hall this season.
“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, because Hall is a great team and it’s a great experience playing them for the third time and it's good to get to know the girls.”
Now, it’s on to the next round.