Mountaineers fall, 2-1, in Class S finals to Portland, but future looks bright.
WATERBURY: It was a battle between a team that has been in this spot numerous times versus the newcomer to the dance in the Class S finals that went to the one with the experience, but may have also been a sign of things to come for the other.
Folks may say that in the Class S finals, the lowest seed in the bracket, # 29 Portland, beat the # 3 seed from Housatonic in a thrilling 2-1 overtime match that nearly gave the winners their second consecutive co-championship.
In the State Tournament though, we all know better. Only good teams remain at this juncture.
The finals Most Valuable Player, Emile Hernandez, scored the game and title winner with 5:06 left in the second overtime to give the Highlanders a trophy they don’t have to share as they did last season with Old Saybrook a year ago.
On a cold and windy morning at Municipal Stadium, it was apparent early that the team that had the wind to their back was going to dominate action in their half of the field and true to form, all three goals were scored when a team had the wind in their corner.
The Mountaineers, making their first ever appearance in the finals, had the wind in the opening half and kept the pressure on Portland by looking to get the ball to their best athlete and scorer, Lauren Segalla.
Segalla is just a sophomore. Sorry Class S, this kid will be haunting the State for two more seasons and simply has a boatload of talent at a very young age.
The Mountaineers in general will be a force in not only the Berkshire League, but around the state for a while based on the youth movement that sparked this finals run.
Neither team was able to put much together early, the first chance either offense had at the net was when a bullet from Segalla went off the left post and the follow up by Chloe Dakers sailed over the top of the goal.
Keeping the ball away from Segalla was the goal of the Highlanders but like most great players, the tenth grader found a way by working her way to the ball and late in the first half, she made it count on the scoreboard.
On a ball that found her at about the 25-yard line, Segalla made her way to her right and set a low drive that found the back of the net to the right of Portland keeper Brooke Marconi for the 1-0 lead.
Housy went into the half up by one but the team with the state experience had the ball and the wind to start the second half and wasted absolutely no time taking advantage of it.
Off of a corner kick, the ball kick around the goal mouth until sophomore Madison Leary poked it past keeper Molly Dowd for not only the equalizer but the momentum changer as well.
“I kind of knew that when Portland scored (45-second into the second half) that it was a game changer.” Housatonic coach Tess Segalla said. “But my girls keep giving everything they got.”
Tied now and without the wind, the Mountaineers tried to mount an offensive answer but a stubborn Portland defense kept their effort at bay.
Hernandez nearly found the go-ahead goal with under five minutes to play but the shot was just over the cross bar.
As the overtimes came, that feeling of a second consecutive co-championship looked like a real possibility until Hernandez connected for the game winner deep in the second overtime.
So while the run stop a game short, the future certainly looks bright for the team from Falls Village who had one heck of a run in 2014.
“I think the best part of all of this was bringing the community together,” junior Lauren Gilderdale said, “It was an entire team effort and without the support of the community and our parents, I don’t think we could have gotten this far.”
Gilderdale will be joined by a host of standout players in 2015, including Segalla who was the BL’s leading scorer by a large margin.
Also coming back will be Dowd, who will be a sophomore and rose to the challenge time after time this year.
“With the group of girls we have, we’ve been playing together since we were ten,” Gilderdale said, “It’s going to be even better when we come back together next year.”
Their head coach wanted the top prize as much as anyone but understands that her program has arrived and will be heard from again.
“These girls definitely made their mark,” head Coach Tess Segalla said. “Not only for our school but for our league as well. We graduate four seniors, two starters and this team will definitely be back with a vengeance next year.”