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In the latest version of what has become the norm when the two South-West Conference rivals meet, close outcomes every time, Newtown High School’s girls’ soccer team fended off visiting Masuk of Monroe 3-2 at Blue & Gold Stadium on October 10.
The Nighthawks remain unbeaten at 11-0-1, and the Panthers fell to 5-3-3. The outcome was very much in doubt until the final seconds, as Masuk pressured to tie the score. As Newtown Coach Marc Kenney noted, the records get thrown out the window when these teams clash.
“It’s just going to be a physical game,” said Kenney, whose team benefited from a foul in the 18-yard box for a goal when Sarah Houle cashed in on a penalty kick in the first half.
“The kids all day are excited. I’m sure the Masuk kids are too. It’s a sense of real desire to win, not that we don’t have it other times. It’s just a bit of a special feel,” Kenney said of the rivalry.
A playoff-like feel.
“It’s always a competitive game when we play Newtown. They’re a good, solid team. They kept the pressure on,” Masuk Coach Eleanor Brainard added.
Houle’s marker and a Masuk tally left the game deadlocked at the half.
Newtown seized a 2-1 lead on a Karsen Pirone net-finder, assisted by Houle. Masuk threatened to tie the game with successive in-close chances with 17 minutes remaining but the Newtown defense and goalkeeper Julianna Stavola were up to the task.
The Nighthawks added to their lead with 11:43 left as Grace Corcoran knocked in a loose ball off a Houle corner kick from the left side after the ball slipped through the hands of Masuk goalkeeper Jennifer Jacovino.
Only a minute later, the Hawks came very close to adding to the lead, but a goal scored off another Houle corner kick feed, this time from the right side, was called off on a Newtown foul.
Masuk capitalized on a handball in the box and scored on a PK to trim the deficit back to a goal with 7:08 to play, and continued to pressure on Newtown’s defensive half of the field.
Stavola made eight saves to help the Hawks prevail.
On October 7, Newtown earned a 2-1 win at Naugatuck. Pirone and Emma Curtis scored, and Stavola had three saves.
Newtown blanked Pomperaug of Southbury 3-0 on October 5 behind goals by Carly Swierbut, Curtis, and Pirone. Houle had two assists, and Stavola made six saves. Newtown handed Pomperaug its first in-conference loss of the season; Pomperaug has since lost to Immaculate.
“For us to play as well as we did at Pomperaug was huge,” Kenney said.
The win over Pomperaug was a nice confidence-booster for the Hawk booters, and Kenney believes games such as the hard-fought battle with Masuk will benefit his team once the postseason comes around.
“The physicality of it, the intensity of it,” Kenney said, will help get his team ready for tough playoff competition.
So will some contests following the Masuk tilt, the coach said. After hosting another tough, familiar foe — Joel Barlow of Redding, on Thursday, October 12, at 7 pm, the Hawks will take on nonconference foe Daniel Hand of Madison, which has only one loss, when Hand visits Blue & Gold on Saturday, October 14, beginning at 6 pm. Newtown visits SWC rival Immaculate of Danbury, another squad with just one defeat, on Tuesday, October 17, at 6 pm.
“It’ll prepare us, that’s for sure,” Kenney said.