Defense keys Mills 3-1 win over St Joseph in Class M girls soccer.
BURLINGTON- This one was for the entire Berkshire League.
A magnificent season rolls on for the undefeated Lewis Mills girls soccer team, who disposed of another team from a tough conference that BL teams where not supposed to be able to beat.
In one of the best all-around soccer games this group of Spartans have ever played, three different players found the net and a tenacious defense kept a quality team from St Joseph off the board until the final minute in a 3-1 win.
The win sends No. 1 ranked Mills (18-0-0) into the semifinals where it will face another tough team, Northwest Catholic (No. 4, 17-1-1), on either Tuesday or Wednesday at a site to be determined.
“This will mark the third time in the last three years that a Berkshire League team would have made it to the semis,” Spartans head coach Dennis Fowler said. “We are not normally given much of a chance but we have proved we belong.”
Last year it was Nonnewaug who made the run to the semis; the year before it was both Mills and Nonnewaug in one of the most memorable semifinals ever.
It took 19 penalty shots before the Chiefs came out on top.
The goal scorers on Saturday, Lindsay Muri, Carly Marenna and Paige Marinelli, get the lions share of the headlines with their amazing ability to find the back of the net.
In fact, they are now the highest scoring team in the state with 103 goals.
Muri leads the pack with 27, followed by Marenna with 19 and Marinelli with 17.
This group can certainly score with the best of them, but they can defend with almost anybody also.
A stubborn defense that has surrendered just seven, yes seven goals all year (.38 goals per game) put on a clinic against a fast and talented team from St Joseph of Trumbull that was young, but looks like it will be a force in the near future.
Playing in the always tough Fairfield County Conference where they play L or LL schools on a regular basis, made the Cadets a tough draw.
Led by senior goalie Lindsay Brown, this tightly knit group plays together as well on the back end as the offense does together up front.
On Saturday, senior Taylor Mosback, junior and freshman Emily Nepomuceno and Alison Hannon took turns playing their three-player back line to perfection.
“We work on our shape all season,” Brown explained. “Our shape is how we keep our three defenders in a line at all times.”
Most teams play four backs or three backs and a sweeper, but Fowler counts on his players to stay disciplined with just three back and by the look on the overall scoreboard, it’s working.
“On defense, we go three across when the ball is not deep in our end then close in to a triangle around the ball when a player gets through,” Fowler said. “These kids have such great chemistry. There is nothing better than experience.”
True, the Spartans throw out seven seniors and two juniors each game. Beats three freshman and a pair of eights any day.
After a tight first half that saw only the Muri goal 15 minutes in, Fowler reminded his team that they had dominated the first 40 minutes but, in his words, “Needed to win the first 10 minutes of the second half.”
In that first half, another key to the home teams advantage was their ability to dominate play in the middle of the field.
“Our midfielders did a great job winning everything in the first half,” Muri said. “When they do that, it makes our jobs that much easier up front.”
Even the Cadets coach, Jack Nogueira, noticed and asked if anybody on his team could take a 50/50 ball.
Most were going to senior Bobbi Bergstrom, who was in the right place at the right time all game, as she has been all season for Fowler.
It took a little more than 10 minutes but the Spartans added their second goal when freshman Mackenzie Bergstrom fed Marenna with just over 27 minutes to play and the senior forward did not miss.
Eighteen down, two to go.
“We have been on a mission all season,” Mosback said. “We set big goals and we are almost there.”
The Berkshire League moves on.