HARTFORD – All season long what the Thomaston High girls soccer team had was more than any opponent could handle. Until Sunday in the Class S State Championship game at Trinity Health Field.
The Golden Bears historic, marvelous campaign and hopes for a first ever state crown and undefeated season came to painful end at the hands of No. 10 Cromwell, 2-1, in double overtime in front of a large crowd.
“At the end of the day, it was another historic season for us except for today,” pained and proud Bears coach Jen Ewart said. “Berkshire League title, Berkshire League Tournament title, state championship game. I couldn’t be prouder to coach these girls. “
The No. 10 Panthers scored with 7:07 to go in the second overtime when Cameryn Hickey lofted a shot from the left side towards the right post. Thomaston goalie Kara Sacco tipped the ball up in the air and Taylor Ursin was there to punch to rebound into the net.
“I made the stop and (Ursin) just happened to run through it,” Sacco said.
The decisive goal was a long time coming for the Panthers who played most of the final 40 minutes of the game in front of the Thomaston goal only to be thwarted repeatedly by spectacular saves from Sacco.
On four separate occasions Sacco frustrated opportunities for go-ahead goals. One save came on a one-on-one with 9:15 and she managed with a dive to push the ball away. She came up with another great save off a header as Cromwell tried to turn control into a lead.
“There was more pressure but I didn’t feel it,” Sacco said. “I just kept going through the motions.”
Repeated pressure, however, had Cromwell, who won its third state title and first since 2007, feeling like a breakthrough was coming at some point.
“I thought (the go-ahead goal) would come in regulation,” Cromwell coach Marcelo Caetano said. “We were holding them off and I expected we would get another goal. It was going to come some time.”
Cromwell outshot the Bears, 14-4 in the second half and 5-0 in the two overtime periods. The shift in the game had come after Thomaston came out rolling in the second half.
Thomaston (19-1-2) outshot the Panthers. 8-5, in an evenly played first half each team missing opportunities. Cromwell had a goal waved off on a hand ball and Sacco made two more diving saves. The Bears missed several crossing connections in front of the net.
The Panthers did break the deadlock when Hickey scored off a corner kick with just 53 seconds to go. The Bears were not amused and fired back early in the second half with some typical grit.
The Bears came out firing on all cylinders in the first 20 minutes of the second half and knotted the score, 1-1 when Sophia Coer scored off a corner kick at the 8:43 mark. The ball curving towards the left post and deflecting off the hands of Cromwell goalie Lauren McCarroll. But while the heart was full and the effort at max, the tank was running low.
There was just one solid the chance the rest of the game with Claire Saunders firing a laser from the right side to the left post only to have goalie Lauren McCaroll make a diving save.
“It just wasn’t working for us getting the ball forward. I feel like Cromwell just got to the ball quicker than we did,” said Saunders. “They just won 50-50 balls. We never had possessions. We didn’t get those balls. They wanted it more than us, clearly.“
“They beat us to the ball,” Ewart said. “It was a game where we got tested with heart and grit and at the end they crashed the goal and scored. We got tired. What was driving us to keep the tie was heart and (Sacco) was awesome
Much of Thomaston’s game has been predicated on precision passing and Cromwell’s quickness made it a difficult day. The Bears were often one pass short of creating a play or hounded when they did have the ball. “
“It’s what we’ve been preaching all season – pressure, pressure, pressure,” Caetano said.
Cromwell outshot the Bears, 19-12. Sacco finished with 18 saves.
“I thought we were the better team but we got outplayed today,” Thomaston’s Lily VanOrmer said. “It’s an honor to be part of this team.”
It has indeed been a memorable, historic journey.