Mills Boys Win in OT to Gain Upper Hand in BL Race. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
WOODBURY-Lewis Mills boys soccer coach Ben Kulas knows it ain’t a done deal yet. But his team certainly put itself in the driver’s seat in the torrid Berkshire League race with a thrilling, come-from-behind, 2-1, overtime victory over Nonnewaug in Woodbury Friday afternoon.
“We still have four games left in the regular season, against Northwestern and Wamogo on the road and Housatonic and Litchfield at our place,” said the mentor, who couldn’t keep from smiling after his team’s victory that pushed the Spartans’ mark to 9-0-3. The Chiefs fell to 9-1-2. “We had to come from behind to beat Housatonic at their place and we tied Litchfield earlier this season. Northwestern and Wamogo won’t be easy on the road.”
But, he admitted, “We have our own fate in our hands after today. We win out and we win the Berkshire League.” In other words, he’ll take his team’s position any day of the season.
Friday’s match was billed as the game of the year in boys BL soccer and it lived up to the hype. It was crisply played, if somewhat chippy, contest fought before an enthusiastic crowd on a gorgeous mid-October afternoon at Nonnewaug High School.
The home club gave its fans something to cheer about when it took a 1-0 lead just before halftime. Nathan Firlings took possession of the ball in the middle of the field about 30 yards out from the Mills goal, slipped a brilliant pass to teammate Jack Kingdon, who then beat Mills keeper Alex Daigle with 31 seconds remaining in the half.
“That changed out discussion at the half somewhat,” said Kulas of the late goal. “But we always want to come out and play aggressive on the attack. It’s the second time we had to come from behind at the half and these kids don’t get down, they just keep their heads up and go after it.”
Mills came out with more passion in the second half after a first 40 minutes during which Kulas admitted the Spartans had been outplayed by the home club. The visitors had the better of it for most of the second half and tied up the game with a little over two minutes gone when Ryan Finley ripped a penalty shot past Nonnewaug goalie Nathan Israel after a Nonnewaug player was called for a hand ball infraction in the penalty box.
Israel couldn’t stop the penalty kick, although he made a valiant attempt as Finley’s shot rocketed into the lower left side of the goal. But the Chief keeper came up huge several times in the second half to keep the game knotted. He blocked a booming shot from Mills forward Freddy Marinelli with 35 minutes left and came out of the net quickly when it looked like a Mills attacker was going to be able to make a beeline for the Mills goal all alone and knocked the ball away from harm eight minutes later.
Mills’ best chance to win the game in regulation came when Cole Farrey hit the top of the crossbar at 31:20, with the ball bouncing just over the net.
Mills’ physical play and aggressive attacking seemed to wear Nonnewaug down a bit and the Spartans appeared the fresher of the two sides going into the two, five-minute overtime periods, although Christian Mancini and Jack Kingdon played with a fervor for the home club throughout and kept Mills’ defenders on their toes.
The pivotal play came when Evan Sokol found Marinelli with a pass and the Spartan forward was able to flip the ball over Israel, who had come out of the net a bit in an attempt to grab the ball. The score came with 1:31 left in the first overtime and proved to be the game-winner.
Nonnewaug’s best opportunity in OT came with only a few seconds left when John Lucera flipped a header on goal only to have Daigle rise up and snare the ball just in the nick of time.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Marinelli after the contest. “We had to have this game in order to take the lead in the Berkshire League and have a chance to win the title. We definitely got outplayed in the first half but we got it going in the second half and overtime.”
On his goal, Marinelli said, “Evan gave me a nice pass and I saw that their goalie was coming out to try and grab the ball. I figured I would just flip it over him and it went into the net.”
Said Kulas, “We’re going to enjoy this win, enjoy the ride home, and then get back to work.”
And that work starts in earnest again next Tuesday when the Spartans travel to play a tough Northwestern club at Regional 7.
For Nonnewaug, the Chiefs also know they have to win out to have a shot at the BL title and face Terryville next Wednesday at home.
1 2 OT OT
Lewis Mills 0 1 1 0 2
Nonnwaug 1 0 0 0 1
Goals: Nonnewaug-Kingdon (0:31, first half); Mills-Ryan Finley (37:54, second half), Freddy Marinelli (1:31, first overtime).
Goalies: Nonnewaug-Nathan Israel; Mills-Alex Daigle.