SOUTHINGTON – The Southington girls soccer team watched its 2019 season end in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Glastonbury in the state championship, and immediately after that heartbreaking match ended, the Blue Knights were talking about the load of talent that would be returning in 2020, and how they were already looking forward to getting back to games where the stakes were that high.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and delayed the season, and also eliminated state tournament competition for 2020. The postseason will be within leagues to regionalize play, which also resulted in drastic changes to teams’ regular season schedules.
For Southington, it meant saying goodbye to a number of opponents that had similar aspirations for 2020. It showed through the Blue Knights’ first five games, rolling through opponents while averaging more than four goals per game and not allowing a single tally on the other end. But heading into Thursday’s matchup with undefeated Farmington, Southington felt it was finally time to get another taste of that state championship atmosphere.
“It felt great,” junior Maya Wroblewski said. “Leading up to this game, everyone was so excited. This is our favorite type of game, against a competitive team like this. This game was really where we had to come out strong and play our best.”
The game itself did not disappoint for the Blue Knights. Tied 0-0 at the half, Southington had to dig deep to find the back of the net, and scored twice in a six minute span to win 2-0, the largest margin of victory between these two teams since 2014.
“I almost had tears in my eyes today,” head coach Mike Linehan said. “As a coach, I love this. I love the excitement and the feeling of today. It’s great for the kids. They thrive on this. They want to be able to show off all of the hard work they’ve put in.”
Across the board, coaches and players felt a different atmosphere at Fontana Field, one that rivaled last year’s loss to Glastonbury, the atmosphere the Blue Knights wanted to return to before the postseason was turned on its head. Southington won’t get a chance to redeem last year’s loss and become state champions, but the team saw Thursday night’s game as the next best alternative, a way to feel like it was playing for something more. In terms of the vibe on the field, the players thought the game absolutely delivered.
“The schedule got completely reversed so we’re playing teams we’ve never played before,” senior Allison Carr said. “But we know Farmington, we know their history, and we know they’ve always been a good team. It was a good fight for us.”
In the postgame huddle, Linehan echoed the sentiment of his players, reveling in the spectacle he took in from the sidelines. There was no trophy to be handed out after the game, nor will there be at the end of the season, but the level of competition on the field had clearly received a boost, and in a take-whatever-they-can-get season, the Blue Knights were thrilled just to have that.
“This is what it’s all about,” Linehan said. “This is the type of competition we played all last year, and made us better. That’s why we’re here. There are some teams that we recognize that they’re not in our same league, and that’s with all due respect. Some programs are in different places than others. But to be able to play Farmington, it brings back the memories of last year. I could see it in the kids. They enjoyed the high level of competition.”
Southington will have another chance at such an atmosphere when it travels to Farmington for the rematch, which will take place on Nov. 15 to cap off the regular season. The Blue Knights also hope every match in between brings a similar intensity. They’ve gotten that taste again, and don’t want to give it up.
“I told the girls that we knew this date on the calendar was going to be a fight,” Linehan said. “But every single team we’ve already played that we play again down the road is going to get better.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org