Conard held its inaugural ‘Pink Out Night’ in memory of the team’s former coach, shutting out Rocky Hill on a foggy evening in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Sometimes a game is more than a game, and a win is more than a win. That was the case Friday night when the Conard girls soccer team shutout Rocky Hill 1-0 on the first Pink Out Night held in honor of former coach and teacher, Kerrie Massaro.
Massaro died of breast cancer in November of 2021, leaving behind to mourn her husband, two daughters, and a Conard community.
Prior to the game Friday, Massaro’s husband, Matt, and daughter, Lauren, addressed the crowd to thank them for the special night and recall how much Kerrie loved her players and friends at Conard. Her daughter, Kathleen, and niece, Caitlyn Farrell, a Conard sophomore, were also on hand. The Conard team sported pink uniforms and the field was lined with pink and white balloons.
Funds raised during the game at the concession stand – totaling more than $1,500 in cash and Venmo – will be donated to both the Kerrie Massaro Scholarship Fund and to breast cancer research. “To be able to play up to our potential on a night that means so much to so many was perfect,” said Conard coach Liz Tracy.
The win over the Terriers (5-2-4) continued a successful run by the Red Wolves, who have gone 3-1-1 in their last five games, after a six-loss streak to start the year. “Our record doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Tracy said after the game. “When we show up, we are incredible.”
Her team definitely showed up Friday, playing a patient, team game against a Rocky Hill side that was just as determined and tough. With much of the game being played in the midfield, scoring chances were hard to come by early on.
The visitors’ Kaitlyn Pereau nearly got the game’s first score when her shot skipped just wide of the net at about the midway point of the first half. The Red Wolves’ Mariana Temponi sent a header just past the far post off a well-placed corner kick with just over 13 minutes to play.
Conard’s defense, including Maddie Sweeney, Ava Nigro, Alice Araya, Anna Clark, and Madilyn Dupont worked in tandem to keep the Rocky Hill pushes forward from getting any good looks at the net. The Terriers had the better of the offense using several throw-ins and corner kicks to keep possession.
Early in the second half, Conard goalie Meryl Rung passed her first big test when she deflected a high, lofted ball safely over the touchline. Just 30 seconds later she tracked down and secured a bouncing shot through a tangle of players. Then, with 11 minutes played, Rocky Hill had a free kick from 25 yards out but Rung was there to secure the one-hop shot.
Later in the half, an eerie fog descended on the pitch, at times obscuring players on the far side. Both teams continued their strong defensive marking and worked hard to control the ball in the midfield area. With just under eight minutes to go, the hosts finally got the goal they had been working toward all night.
The play started when senior Bethany Kim intercepted a Rocky Hill pass, pushed the ball right, and fired off a right-footed cross that seemed to take the defense by surprise. The Terriers were forced to knock the ball over the endline to slow down the threat. On the ensuing corner kick, it was Clark launching a perfectly placed ball deep into the Rocky Hill box.
Bailey Hawkesby-Mullins came crashing in and drove the ball into the net with a header. “I was in what we call the ‘garbage area’ off the back post,” said the goal scorer. “I just ran and the ball hit my head. It was really special to win this game with [Kerrie Massaro’s] family here.”
Conard’s defense and midfielders played a strong game, controlling space and playing with confidence. They picked up the runners from Rocky Hill and were willing to give up the throw-in or corner in order to halt an attack. “We are learning to trust each other and combine to make some beautiful soccer,” Tracy said. “We have been emphasizing just do you job, trust your teammates and everything will work out.”
The Red Wolves (3-7-1) travel to meet 6-3-2 Southington on Tuesday before returning home Friday to face a Simsbury squad that has not lost in its last six matches.
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