LITCHFIELD – The Thomaston High girls soccer team is young, it is fearless and it is good. Swish those ingredients around and what do you have? How about a first ever appearance in the Class S quarterfinals.
Just two years removed from qualifying for the state tournament for a first time, the No. 10 Golden Bears kept their best season ever going while adding a touch of the magical to it with a 2-0 victory over Berkshire League rival, No. 7 Litchfield, at the Plumb Hill Complex.
The win sets up an intriguing quarterfinal matchup at No. 2 Holy Cross Friday at 4 p.m. at Crosby’s Jimmy Lee Stadium.
It’s always a spicy matchup when you get the Berkshire League and Naugatuck Valley League and Holy Cross in the mix. How about this? One of Thomaston’s assistant coaches, Mike Mentone, coached the Crusaders for a long, long time. Roll that one around a bit.
But, that is next, getting there was huge and the moment was not lost on the Bears (13-4-1) as they moved into unchartered territory.
“This means not only the world to us but to see how this team had a goal to make it far in the states and do it is a huge accomplishment,” said one of the team’s captains, senior Haley Greco. “I’m excited to see how far we can go.”
Youth has not been and was not wasted on the young Bears despite the number of challenges on this day. There was that dreaded third matchup with a very good team that they had defeated, 3-1, and tied, 2-2, during the season. Then there was the whole they never advanced this far into the tournament thing.
Finally, there was a first half scare when leading scorer, Claire Saunders (41 goals), turned her ankle with 22 minutes gone and sat out the rest of the half.
Let’s just say, none of the above bothered the Bears. They bottled up the Litchfield offense allowing just two shots, neither a threat to get in the goal, and got just enough offense to walk away with a solid victory.
“We often use the term grit, it’s been important to us to install that mental attitude,” said coach Jen Ewart.
And then you listen to sophomore Katelyn Guerin, a major force in the middle and you get the idea that not too much fazes the Bears.
“We knew we had beaten (Litchfield) and we wanted to seal it off (with the third win), advance and play,” said Guerin. “When Claire went off there was no drop off. Everyone worked hard. She was a loss, but we built off of it.”
Before Saunders, who played the entire second half, went off the field the Bears had gotten the upper hand. With 29:02 left, Nicole Decker took a pass from Guerin and found the back of the net from about 15 yards out almost directly in front of the goal.
Litchfield, playing without its leading scorer, Caitlyn Reiter, was unable to penetrate the Thomaston defense nor to put any pressure on the Thomaston net, failing to produce a shot in the half.
“The first goal was huge and in a state game like this is both a curse and a blessing,” said Litchfield coach Mike Wilson. “If you get it, you have a good positive mindset and our defense got right on its heels.”
The Thomaston defense was superb, but the absence of Reiter did not help Litchfield’s cause.
“All season long (Reiter) was one of our key forwards (18 goals in 11 games) and when you don’t have her and have a small bench it can make a big impact,” said Wilson. “You need the whole team to put decent pressure on the defense. We came out nervous and made a couple of small mistakes and couldn’t recover without a threat.”
Thomaston gave itself some breathing room when Sofia Coer footed a beautiful lofted, floater into the upper right corner of the net after taking a pass from Rejhana Allu with 7:55 left in the first half.
Litchfield came out in a feisty mood in the second half and was able to apply some pressure in the Thomaston end. Several times lose balls rolled around within striking distance of the Thomaston net, but no foot was able to find a good shot.
Thomaston outshot the Cowgirls, 9-2, with Litchfield goalie Mackenzie Schweter registering six saves and Thomaston’s Kara Sacco credited with two saves.
“Our defense played really well,” said Ewart. We were strong mentally and physically prepared for the game. It was a lot of teamwork and camaraderie.
Thomaston left with the dream and another day. Litchfield (13-4-1) left with the pride of a good season.
“The coaches are super proud about the girls performed,” said Wilson. “We kept telling them, ‘small and mighty.’ ‘’