Mills girls fall to East Catholic, 2-1 in overtime in Class M semi's.
WATERBURY: Two clears.
That’s about all that stood between the Lewis Mills girls’ soccer and a trip to the Class S finals but alas, they never came.
Instead, a sparkling season by the Spartans comes up a game short after a 2-1 overtime loss to East Catholic in the semi-finals.
The Eagles, ranked number 20, came in with a 9-6-1 record but play in the ultra-tough Central Connecticut Conference where they are the only Class M team, but came up with a 1-0 overtime win over LL foe South Windsor late in their 2014 campaign.
Mills got off to a fast start in this one, breaking onto the scoreboard when junior Ailene Berry got free just inside an off sides trap and put the ball past senior goalie Allisa Parker for the 1-0 lead.
The score stayed that was and it appeared the top ranked team in Class M would go into the half with that lead but with just 19-seconds to play in the first, a penalty kick was awarded on a foul inside the box.
It was the first of two times the Mills defense would not get a clear on a ball they had a shot at doing so on and the Eagles made them pay.
Junior sensation Mason Worthington calmly stepped to the line and drilled a shot past Spartan keeper Melanie Senk for the equalizer.
In the second half, East Catholic continued a habit they started in the first half by utilizing most of their bench throughout the game.
The Eagles would regularly substitute four players at a time, it was like watching a hockey line change at some point as head coach Liz Palmer kept throwing fresh bodies at Mills.
It was clear that East Catholic came in very, very battled tested.
“Playing against LL and L team all year gets us ready for this time of the year,” Eagles head coach Liz Palmer said. “My girls are fighters, from the bench players to the ones who play 80-minutes. They are a team and a family.”
Neither team could find the back of the net in the second half although each had their opportunities.
In the first extra frame, the second failed clear came back to haunt the Spartans as sophomore Nicole Garfield got clean look and drove the game winner in with a ball that just went over an outstretched Senk.
How did playing those high level teams help Garfield and her teammates? By not making it easy for one.
“It was really tough,” Garfield said. “We played against the number two team in the state and played all LL and L schools. So coming in here, we knew we had a good shot.”
For head coach Dennis Fowler and his Mills girls, it was disappointment balanced with a certain level of pride.
“No one expected this from us this year,” Fowler said. “You lose 13 seniors, nine starters. Nobody expected us to be here. I think one of the greatest things you can do as a team is overachieve and I think we overachieved this year.”
Granted, the Spartans came in ranked number one after a perfect 16-0 regular season but it comes down to what a team has learned during the regular season from tough competition and that is something that lacked in the Berkshire League.
With the exception of Housatonic, who find themselves representing the BL on Saturday in the Class S final, there was not much in the way of quality play from the remainder of the league for Mills to improve against, a recurring problem that sometimes leads to talk of joining another league.
That’s a discussion for another day.
“I’m proud of them,” Fowler said. “You get to this time of the year and there are only great teams left and I’ll call my team a great team.”