Raiders soccer falls in NVL Tournament finals, 2-1 to Watertown in OT.
WATERBURY: Teams that face the Watertown boys soccer team be forewarned: don’t take them into extra time.The are lethal there.
The Indians boys made it a clean sweep of the hardware in this years Naugatuck Valley League Tournament (the girls took the title with a 2-0 victory over Woodland earlier in the day) with a 2-1 overtime win over Torrington in a bit of deja-vu for the Raiders.
In their regular season match-up, Torrington battled to an identical result in Watertown on October 5.
Watertown had lost in the finals a year ago and had been on a mission since day one of practice.
“We set our minds to it at the beginning of the year.” forward Luigi Calabrese said after excepting the tournament MVP award. “We learned from last years loss in the finals and stayed together as a team all year.”
For the Raiders, a finals loss that pushed the victor to the limit is nothing to sneeze at and their head coach knew it.
“We proved we can play with anyone in the league.” Michael Fritch, Jr. said. “These guys have nothing to be ashamed of. Disappointed, upset, sure, but we will be back.”
The winds at Municipal Stadium played their usual role in complicating matters for both teams.
A stiff breeze made possession at the end of the field near the baseball field advantageous and in the first half, the Indians dominated play in the Raiders end as Torrington struggled to work the ball out of their own zone.
Watertown would strike first when Calabrese, who like most of his fellow forwards rely on blazing speed and terrific footwork, found the back of the net with just over six minutes gone in the game.
Play remained in the Torrington end almost exclusively with few exceptions.
The Indians play on a smooth pure surface like the one at Municipal during the regular season and took advantage of touch passes to maintain possession until the Raiders main offensive creator got free late in the first half.
Striker Jairo Borja, who was regularly double-teamed by the Indians defense, got free at mid-field and made his way towards the middle of the field near the 20-yard line.
Borja found Amar Suljic, who has had a monster past two weeks offensively, on the right side and lifted a perfect pass that left Suljic just behind the Indians defenders and on goal.
His right footed blast found the back left side of the net and the Raiders had come back to tie things at one.
This looked to come down to a game of limited opportunities but opportunities neither team could afford not to take advantage of.
Torrington got the wind in the second half and immediately poured on the offensive pressure.
It looked for all the world that the Raiders would take the lead six minutes in when Suljic broke in towards the goal, got the Watertown goalie to come out, commit and miss his shot that had right corner of the net written all over it.
It would however, miss the net by inches and mark a missed opportunity.
Just minutes later, the Raiders, keeping the pressure at a blistering pace, had their second chance too take the lead.
Off another great set-up from Borja, Shane Bierfeldt found himself with an open lane on goal but double-pumped on the shot, which was blocked.
A fast, clean shot had a real chance but a second opportunity had gone by the boards for the Raiders.
All throughout this amazing season, one player who transformed himself and therefore by association, his team, stood rock steady in the goal.
Zack Paniatti has improved his play in net each and every time he has stepped on the pitch.
On Saturday, while not facing a blistering amount of shots, Paniatti was big when he needed to be.
In the second half, the now 65-pound slimmer goalie was everywhere he needed to be to block rockets by the Indians in the 23rd minute as well as a brilliant stop with just under two to play in regulation.
The second save was special as Paniati read the Watertown movement with the ball perfectly and stopped cold what appeared to be a go ahead shot into the right corner of the net.
While both teams had chances over the last 10-minutes, it started to feel like an overtime game and that played into the Indians strength.
“We played in so many overtime games.” Calabrese said. “We know how to not let the pressure get to us.”
A little more than three minutes in the first of two-10 minute extra frames, a Torrington foul gave the Brass Division champs a free-kick from midfield.
Senior defender McKale Roger launched a deep ball towards goal that looked like trouble the moment it rocketed from his foot.
Sure enough, after a scrum in front of he net, the tallest player on the field, John Good, found the back of the net with from about five-yards out for the lead.OT.
A friend for the Indians, no so much for the Raiders.
So Watertown has two more trophies for the case at the high school and new Athletic Director, Roberto Medic, has a smile that runs ear to ear.
Soccer City. It’s Watertown right now in the NVL.
Don’t fret Torrington fans, both teams play in Class L so round three is a possibility the Raiders would like to have.
“We may see them again.” Fritch said. “Since we are on opposite sides of the brackets, it could only be in the finals. I’ll take that.”