Not a whole lot — in terms of points — separates the fourth- through eighth-seeded teams in the upcoming South-West Conference tournament. And not much — in terms of head-to-head competition — differentiates the Newtown High School’s girls’ soccer squad from any of the top teams. The Nighthawks, however, will have to go on the road and pull off an upset of sorts to make it through the Saturday, October 26, quarterfinal round.
The Hawks enter into the tourney as the No. 6 seed and will try to avenge a 1-0 regular-season loss to No. 3 New Milford. The Green Wave will host the Nighthawks for a 1 pm game, with a berth in the October 29 semifinals on the line. The winner will face either No. 2 Joel Barlow of Redding or No. 7 Masuk. Newtown lost just 1-0 to Barlow and handled Masuk 4-1. The Nighthawks, for the record, hung in there with top-seeded Immaculate of Danbury, a possible championship-round opponent, in a 2-0 loss.
First things first: Trying to overcome the Green Wave. “I think the kids are excited about the opportunity to play a team that has beaten us,” said Newtown Coach Marc Kenney, after a regular season-ending 7-0 win over Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport at Treadwell Park on October 21.
New Milford finished with an 11-3-1 SWC record and 34 points, and the Hawks went 8-4-3 and posted 27 points, even with fifth-seeded Lauralton Hall of Milford, which won the tie-breaker over the Hawks. Newtown was just two points behind Pomperaug of Southbury, which earned the fourth seed and a first-round home game. The Nighthawks suffered a tough 3-2 loss to Pomperaug on October 17 despite a pair of Sarah Lynch goals set up on assists from Brenna Kelly and Jess Keller.
Newtown had an easy time against a winless Kolbe team, and played keep-away in an effort to work on ball control and not run up the score — even with junior varsity call-ups on the field for much of the afternoon. Starters Shelby Tolla (two goals), Makenna Cerney, and Lynch scored in the first half. Cerney and Lynch scored early in the second, and Hannah Booth added a tally. Anna Biondi had a pair of assists, and Dale Shearin and Julia Schoeni added helpers.
Kenney noted that getting numerous substitutes — both varsity reserves and JV call-ups — into the game helps with team chemistry. He was proud of how the girls played and showed sportsmanship in a game that could have been even more lopsided.
Beginning on Saturday and continuing through the remainder of the conference tourney and upcoming state tournament, the games all stand to be challenging.
“I am looking forward to it. It’s been a good year,” said Kenney, adding that his team lost ten players to graduation from last year’s SWC runner-up and state champion lineup. “These kids are great. They’re working hard — they’re focused.”