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Catanzaro Leads Conard Over New Britain

Conard's Anthony Catanzaro (11) tracks New Britain's Lucas Klimkiewicz. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Becca Lewis gets her first winner as boys soccer coach of West Hartford’s Conard High School.

Conard coach Becca Lewis (center) got her first win as the head coach of the Red Wolves’ boys soccer team. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

Senior co-captain Anthony Catanzaro scored three goals and assisted on two more as the Red Wolves boys soccer team notched its first win of the season with a 7-3 victory over New Britain.

The win for Conard (1-1-1) was also the first victory for head coach Becca Lewis. “It’s just one step toward our goal for the season,” said the coach. “Hopefully there are more to come.”

Conard started out strong, scoring just 53 seconds into the match when Catanzaro carried the ball down the far side of the field, cut into the middle, and fired a shot that beat New Britain goalie Max Szczepanik. Less than five minutes later Conard had a chance to take a two-goal lead but Szczepanik made a big save on the shot from Sami Dridi.

Kevin Rivas awaits the throw-in from teammate Stephen Mack in Friday’s win. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

The Red Wolves controlled the early flow but were offside on several plays. The Golden Hurricanes would find the equalizer when Omar Alwishah scored the first of his three goals in the game. Six minutes later, Alwishah beat the Conard wall from just outside the box to make it 2-1 for the visitors.

New Britain’s Omar Alwishah scores on the free kick. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Catanzaro nearly tied it but Szczepanik – who deserved a better fate – made back-to-back saves on the Conard captain’s shots on goal. With just over 13 minutes to play in the first 40, it was Alwishah getting his third of the game. Lucas Klimiewicz drove a free kick into the Conard box and Alwishah’s shot deflected off the leg of a defender and past goalie Elijah Clymer.

That goal seemed to wake up the home team, and Conard scored the next six goals unanswered.

Conard’s John Carney fights for possession for the Red Wolves. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

First it was Catanzaro picking up a misplayed ball by the Hurricanes and slipping it through the legs of a charging goalie. Two minutes later, Kevin Rivas slotted his first of the game for Conard and the score was tied at 3. The goal came just after Conard decided to switch up a few things on the field and changed their formation.

With Catanzaro now on the near side, he took the ball to the corner and let loose a perfect cross that found the foot of Colin Scrimgeour at the back post to give Conard the lead. “He [Catanzaro] was absolutely a spark for us as we struggled in that first half,” said Lewis of her co-captain.

If not for the play of Szczepanik in the opening 40 minutes, Conard would have had a huge lead at the break. He made several spectacular saves going high to punch away chances and going all out with his dives to keep the ‘Canes in the game. In all, he had nine saves in just the first half.

Anthony Catanzaro (11) scored three of Conard’s seven goals. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Riding the momentum of the late goals, Conard put the game away in the opening 3:12 of the second half. It started  on an innocent-looking play when Catanzaro pressured a New Britain defender in the corner. The defender’s poor pass into the middle was broken up by Scrimgeour who fed Catanzaro and he went to the low far side for the hat trick just 35 seconds in.

Seconds later it was Rivas paying off a play that saw five different Red Wolves touch the ball as they moved down the field to paydirt.

Conard would score its final goal of the day with 36:48 to play in the second half. Catanzaro was fouled in the box and Conard was awarded a penalty kick. Lewis chose midfielder Dridi to take the shot from the spot and he beat Szczepanik low to his left side. Dridi was a steadying force all game for Conard, gaining posession and making the right passes. “He was such a hard worker for us, helping us connect all day,” Lewis said.

Sami Dridi converts the penalty kick for the Red Wolves. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

With both teams substituing liberally, Conard kept up the pressure, but coulkd not find the back of the net for an eighth time.

The only concern for the Red Wolves was the three yellow cards they collected as a team in the game. Under the CIAC rules, any team that gets a total of 16 cards in the regular season is not eligible for the post-season. “That’s something we have to clean-up,” Lewis said after her first victory as the head coach.

Conard will play its next two games on the raod against very tough opponents – first at unbeaten Plainville on Monday, and then at defending Class LL champion Farmington on Sept. 22.

Conard’s Rooni Niroula and New Britain’s Jairo Moreno race for the ball. Conard vs. New Britain boys soccer. Sept. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

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