Paige Middleton leads Torrington girls soccer to 2-0 win over St Paul...Story by John Torsiello.
Mario Longobucco and his Torrington High School girls soccer team weren’t doing cartwheels after the Raiders earned their second victory of the young season with a 2-0 blanking of an overmatched St. Paul Catholic team in Bristol on a gorgeous late summer Monday afternoon.
But the head coach and his girls certainly had smiles, and deservedly so, on their faces after a solid performance that set them up for a huge showdown with one of the Naugatuck Valley League’s favorites, Woodland, at home Wednesday. The Raiders also have an away game at Naugatuck Friday afternoon. Ouch.
“St. Paul lost to Woodland, 6-0, so we have our hands full against them on Wednesday,” said Longobucco, whose team finished 9-6-1 last year. “Woodland is a veteran team and this is a year that they are thinking is their year.”
Torrington will put that thinking to the test Wednesday after beating Seymour and then St. Paul. The Raiders, who have scored only three goals in their first two games of 2012, aren’t an explosive team, at least not yet. But they have some speed on the wings and a solid defense that is anchored by talented and tough senior Toni Wilson.
“I think Toni is the best defender in the league,” said Longobucco. Wilson brushed aside a number of St. Paul offensive forays with her quickness and foot skills.
Torrington is a young team, starting five sophomores Monday, including speedy forward Paige Middleton, who tallied both goals. She broke through the St. Paul defense on the left side and beat the Falcons’ netminder Julia D’Abragno, with 12:18 minutes left in the first half.
She again turned in a brilliant individual effort with 10 minutes left in the game when she ran onto a long ball from a teammate on the right side of the St. Paul defense and laced a shot from 40 feet that hit the left crossbar and ricocheted into the Falcons’ net.
“I thought the second goal was going to miss the net,” said a smiling Middleton, who had six goals as a freshman in 2011. “I was just hoping a teammate was going to be there. The first goal I just saw that it was open to the goal if I could beat my defender.”
Middleton likes her team’s chances in the NVL this season despite its youth and several top teams, such as Woodland and Naugatuck, standing in the way.
“I think we’re the underdog and we like that role.”
Longobucco also likes his team’s chances to at least make some noise and create some fear in opponents.
“We are young but a lot of these kids played as freshmen. Maybe we will be a team that can win a game or two in the tournament and surprise some people. We have some good speed up front but we are smaller height-wise than we have been in the past.”
The score certainly could have been more lopsided had not Torrington attackers run into some bad luck. The Raiders outshot the home team, 16-7, and had several other sterling opportunities to put the ball into the net.
Junior forward Olivia Morrison hit the crossbar on a direct kick about two minutes into the second half, and then junior midfielder Taylor Pestritto one-timed a crossing pass from Morrison just over the top of the goal two mites later. A shot by junior Micalea Bottari, who did some nice work on the left side of the midfield area all afternoon, both in an offensive and a defensive vein, rolled a shot that D’Abragno was able to dive onto with 10 minutes left.
Torrington goaltender Taylor Howe, another super soph, wasn’t tested severely by St. Paul, although she was up to the task to grab or knock away with ease the few shots that the Falcons were able to get from long range. Wilson, sophomore Courtney Dell’Agnese and sophomore Kendra Covington did a fine job in front of Taylor, preventing the Falcons from launching many serious attacks on the Raider goal.
Torrington will get a better idea of where it stands when the Hawks come to town Wednesday. If the defense can hold up to what will surely be a furious Woodland attack and Middleton and her mates can find the goal a few times, anything might happen.
Then you might see some cartwheels on the Torrington sidelines.