Sure, the 2-1 setback at Masuk of Monroe on October 10 could have been chalked up as an acceptable loss to a really strong team; the Panthers came into the contest, after all, like Newtown with only one loss — and have established their winning ways in mostly dominant fashion.
But Nick Booth, coach of Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer team, views this as a learning experience from which his team must get better if it is to make noise in the upcoming South-West Conference and state playoffs.
The Panthers played their over-the-top long ball style to build an early 2-0 lead, scoring twice in the opening seven minutes, and hung on. Newtown fell to 8-2-1 and Masuk improved to 9-1-1.
Booth noticed his Nighthawks playing more to Masuk’s long-kick style and getting away from its bread-and-butter: ball control, short passes, and moving the ball out to the flanks or to other open spots to create chances.
“We can’t play like that,” Booth said. “We lost our way. It’s a lesson for our guys because we can not play that way. We’ve got to keep the ball or we’re not going to get our way.”
The Nighthawk coach said Masuk’s approach is a bit unusual but that its collective size makes the team effective at it. He added that Newtown will see some unfamiliar teams in state tourney play, so this was a good test for his squad.
“We’ve got to control the tempo of the game. We’ve got to improve our style and not allow teams to dictate the flow of the game,” Booth said. “We have to prove we can get it done in one of these games,” Booth said.
Another likely tough challenge was a Thursday, October 12, visit to unbeaten Joel Barlow of Redding, the only team to defeat Masuk, in a 1-0 nail-biter, beginning at 4 pm.
Jack Oltran scored late in the first half of the Masuk game to give the Hawks some life and, to their credit, they had some momentum in the second half but could not break through. Nighthawk goalkeeper CJ Trivers made six saves to keep his squad in the game.
Oltran also scored in a 1-0 win over visiting Pomperaug of Southbury, on October 5. The net-finder was set up by a throw-in from Adam Farley. Trivers made eight saves.
The Hawks will host Immaculate of Danbury on Tuesday, October 17, beginning at 6:30 pm. After visiting Stratford on Thursday, October 19, at 7 pm, NHS will host Old Lyme on Saturday, October 21 at 6 pm.