NAUGATUCK - Two games, two teams of champions. November 1 was an evening to savor for the large contingent of Watertown High School fans in attendance at Naugatuck High School for the championship doubleheader of the NVL’s post-season soccer tournament, as both the Indians’ boys and girls teams justified the regular seasons which landed them the number-one seedings in their respective eight-team fields.
The undefeated WHS boys team of coach Vitto Caligiuri began the evening on the right note with a 2-0 win over Woodland Regional High School; immediately afterwards, the Lady Indians of Christina Caron, playing in their third title game in four years, blanked Iron Division rival Wolcott High School, 2-0, despite the second half absence of goal-scoring machine Meadow Mancini, who suffered a right leg injury while scoring what proved to be game-winning goal late in the first half.
Jake Champagne and Morgan Dodge of the Indians were named their respective tournaments’ Most Valuable Players.
WHS BOYS CLAMP DOWN ON HAWKS
Taking their 14-0-3 league record into their showdown with the Hawks, it was the Indians who, in the person of goalie Hayden Beauty, had to survive the first serious thrust by either side.
Beauty made seven saves on the night, but none more important than his first one on a blast by Woodlands’ Maciej Lewicki and one a few moments later on a Hawks’ corner which he grabbed off a re-direct.
From there, the Indians probed and nearly capitalized when Champagne’s header sailed just wide of the Woodland goal.
Make no mistake, these teams were playing for keeps as collisions were taking place all over the field, with one particularly scary moment coming when the Indians’ Zackary Fenn and Woodland’s Jason Claiborn ran into each other at midfield, but after a clock stoppage, both were okay.
Woodland almost grabbed the upper hand when a shot by Matthew Iannone beat Beauty but clanged off the right goalpost with a resounding thud which could be heard all the way back in Watertown.
Champagne, in transition, had another opportunity, but Woodland goalie Ryan Lamb, made a diving stop, one of his seven.
Taking command territorially, the Indians finally cashed in during the 30th minute of play.
Troy Tedesco played the role of ice-breaker when, after Keith Caouette picked off an errant Woodland clearing attempt, he found himself with the ball on his foot in front of Lamb.
Making no mistakes, the junior popped the ball into the goal for what would turn out to be the title-winning goal.
In search of the back-breaker (which would come much later), Watertown went for it, and came close, as the Woodland defense cleared a shot which was ticketed for the far corner by Moni Jusufi in the 35th minute.
Urged on by Caligiuri, Watertown pressed harder in the opening minutes of the second half; the best chance occurred when Caouette passed to Jusufi, who was robbed by Lamb in the fourth minute.
Beauty and the steady Indians’ backline held it’s ground when challenged, the senior keeper was there when Lewicki sailed a direct kick at him and again when he drilled a howitzer at him in the 27th minute.
After Lamb made a good save to foil a Champagne-to-Caouette bid, the Indians got the back-breaker, courtesy of the second-seeded Hawks.
With just under nine minutes to play, Hawk defender Cole Barrow back-pass to Lamb had a little too much juice on it and on the slippery turf, it eluded him and sped into the goal as the forlorn goalie could do nothing but look on and sag onto his knees while the Watertown bench (and very vocal fan section) erupted, knowing that the first boys’ title since 2012 was all-but-assured.
In their tournament semifinal game, the Indians defeated St. Paul Catholic High School, 4-0 at Crosby High School on October 30.
Tedesco, Champagne, Caouette and Liam Farrell scored the goals; Beauty and Vincent Orsini made 10 saves in goal.
NEXT UP: The CIAC Class ‘M’ tournament, where the fourth-seeded NVL champion Indians began at the Mills Complex with a scheduled first round game against 29th-seeded O’Brien Tech on November 6...The second round is scheduled for Thursday, November 8, the quarterfinals for Saturday, November 10, the semifinals on either November 13 or 14 and the final on Saturday, November 17.
1 2 T
Watertown 1 1 2
Woodland 0 0 0
W - Tedesco - 30th minute
W - Woodland own goal - 71st minute.
WHS GIRLS WAYLAY WOLCOTT
Okay, so it was one banner collected, with one to go; and was there ever really doubt that the Lady Indians high-powered offense, led by all-time goal-scorer Mancini was going to get the job against the second-seeded Lady Eagles with style?
Well, for awhile in the second half, it appeared that this one could get away, but then Madeline Daigneault stepped up and put any doubts to rest.
Daigneault, with the locals hanging on against a fired-up and hard-pressing Wolcott attack on her goalie Emily Deptula, applied the finishing touch when her well-placed, high shot sailed over Wolcott goalie Allison Gough and dropped into the goal in the 67th minute, silencing the previously-boisterous Wolcott fan section.
Throughout the season, Daigneault, who showed no reluctance in taking her shot, has been an unsung hero on a team which boasts a large supply of them; the junior stepped up when the Indians, playing without Mancini for the last 44 minutes, needed it most - the sign of a champion playing, again, on a side full of them.
Simply put, the team didn’t panic with Mancini’s loss, a credit to Caron and assistant coach Melissa Dodge.
Mancini was injured after scoring the first goal of the game late in what had been a quiet first half, with neither team able to sustain any offensive momentum, which was reflected in the lack of noise from the large crowd.
Then, just like that, a push by the Lady Indians with just under five minutes to go resulted in Mancini scoring in the midst of a scramble in front of Gough, only to collide with a tangle of bodies, immediately falling to the ground clutching her right knee.
Despite several game efforts the remainder of the way to walk it off, Mancini was done for the night, begging the question: would her goal be enough the get the team home?
Behind a superior defensive effort, it was, as the Lady Indians kept the Eagles away from Deptula, who was also very lucky as well as very good.
With 17:55 remaining in regulation play, the game was about to be ever-steven as Wolcott’s Tiona Watts (wearing #13) had the ball on her foot, Deptula at her mercy, took her time to pick her spot, then missed the goal completely as anyone and everyone wearing black-and-orange heaved a huge sigh and Watts collapsed to her knees in disbelief.
Brooke Tracy (by the Watertown wall on a direct kick) and Bella Piacentini (wide) also were denied, with the Indians coming back in transition where Daigneault did her clutch thing to secure the second Watertown championship of the night.
In their semifinal round game, revenge was on the minds of the Lady Indians when they took on Woodland Regional High School at the Mills Complex on October 30.
After a scoreless first half, the relieved Lady Indians took a deep breath, as they scored twice in the second half to eliminate the pesky Lady Hawks, the only team with a victory against them this season, 2-0.
Emma Kite, a sophomore, scored both goals early in the half.
NEXT UP: The CIAC Class ‘L’ tournament, where the third-seeded NVL champion Lady Indians, after a first round bye, began at home against 14th-seed Killingly High School on November 7...Killingly defeated 19th-seed East Haven in a first round game on November 5...The quarterfinal round is scheduled for Friday, November 9, the semifinals on either November 12 or 13 and the final for Saturday, November 17.
1 2 T
Watertown 1 1 2
Wolcott 0 0 0
W - Mancini - 35th minute
W - Daigneault - 67th minute