O'Neill leads Litchfield girls soccer to a 2-1 win over Housatonic in Class S action. It's on to the quarterfinals on Saturday.
FALLS VILLAGE: As Litchfield girls' soccer senior Ali O"Neill set up to take a corner kick, midway through the opening half of her team's Class S second round game against rival Housatonic, she noticed something.
"I saw that their keeper was out farther than usual," O'Neill said. "So, I decided to use my ability to curl the ball from the corner and it went in."
O"Neill would add a second goal minutes later off an assist from Caroline Donovan and the Cowboys were able to withstand a second half goal by the Mountaineers in taking the Battle of the Berkshire League by a 2-1 final.
How big was that first goal?
Just ask Cowboys head coach Marissa Quesnel.
"That just gave us that extra momentum going forward," Quensel said. "And then we got the second goal and just kept on going. We needed that, we needed someone to step up and she did."
The win puts Litchfield (No 14) into the quarterfinals of the Class S Tournament where they will travel on Saturday to take on No 11 East Hampton on Saturday at 2 p.m.
East Hampton took care of No 5 Innovation by a 4-0 final.
This is unfamiliar territory for the Cowboys, beating Housatonic.
Earlier this year, the Mountaineers had the upper hand in a 2-1 win and playing in Falls Village is always tough, especially for Litchfield.
One of the true standouts on this team, senior Amber Marino, knows how tough it is to beat a Housy team, at their home.
"To beat them here is huge," Marino said. "Since I have been playing, we have never beaten them in the regular season and to beat them in the tournament is incredible."
Marino is the steady, calming force for head coach Marissa Quesnel and she knows she has a field general in place on the defensive side of the ball.
"I rely a lot on Amber," Quensel said. "She steps up when we need her, especially in these games."
The Mountaineers came in ranked No 3 in Class S but we all know that rankings and seedings get thrown out the window at this time of the year.
There is something so much bigger going on and on this beautiful fall afternoon, the Cowboys came with a score to settle.
"We talked about that on the bus," Quesnel said. "They were saying that we had never beat Housy and this was going to be the time that we can make a difference."
Up 2-0 at the half, Litchfield turned to their defense in the second half and an on-field adjustment helped them do just that.
"We focused on the block of eight," Quensel said. "The back four and the four midfielders to keep our shape and keep our defense strong."
Being up two goals with 40 minutes left is still not a wide margin and the width of the lead shrunk with just over 15-minutes to play when Sierra O'Niel redirected a free kick from teammate Emily Geyselaers as the home team got on the scoreboard.
The visitors would hold on though, thwarting every chance from the Mountaineers down the stretch.
"I am so proud of them," Quesnel said. "They stepped up today. We talked about the mental side of soccer and that showed today. They fought for each other, they fought for themselves and they fought for the people that were watching. It was really so much fun to watch."
This has happened once before, the getting a "W" during the most important time of the year against a key rival.
"Ten years ago," Quesnel said. "We beat Housy in the State Tournament as well so history was just repeating itself."
So, it's on to the quarterfinals, a place the Cowboys may not be familiar with but they hadn't beat Housy in a while so who knows?