The Hall boys soccer team defeated Newington 5-1 Tuesday night in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Lucas Almeida scored three times and Sam Sandler assisted on two and scored a goal of his own to lead the Titans to a win over Newington at Hall High school Tuesday night.
The Titans are now 9-0-1 on the season and ranked second in Class LL behind unbeaten Trumbull. Newington – after a 6-0 start to the season, has dropped its last two games.
“It’s been a progression for us,” said Sandler of his team. “We have a lot to still work on, but this was a great win versus a very good Newington,” added the senior captain.
Early on, the teams exchanged good scoring chances. Newington’s Tyler Ferreira looked to be headed for a breakaway into the Hall box, but he was tracked down by a defender who knocked the ball over the endline.
Hall had a pair of good chances just 30 seconds apart in the opening 12 minutes. First it was Sandler using his speed to race down the sideline and send a dangerous ball into the Newington box. Defender Anthony Napoletano was able to safely head the ball out of danger. Thirty seconds after that, Almeida nearly capitalized on a defensive miscommunication between goalie Gavin Williams and one of his defensive mates.
The Nor’easters drew first blood 23:35 into the opening 40 minutes when forward Alen Mujic collected a feed from the right side and fired it across the face of the goal and into the net for the 1-0 lead. “We didn’t expect them to score first, because we usually score first,” said Sandler.
“I thought they were better than us in some stretches early on,” said Hall coach Zeke Seguro. “We had chances, and sometimes you just have to grow into the game.”
Anyone who has watched Hall this season knows that to find success against the Titans you need to find a way to slow down Sandler – who is an All-American runner in track – and stop Almeida from finding the open space to shoot. Newington found out just before intermission, in quick fashion, just how dangerous those two seniors are.
With 3:20 to play, Sandler blazed past a Newington defender and rifled a shot past Williams to tie things at 1. A minute and 15 seconds later it was Almeida’s shot sneaking through the legs of Williams to stake Hall to the 2-1 lead. “They [Sandler and Almeida] play so well off each other,” Seguro said. “They are such high-level players and they showed their ability.”
The duo nearly doubled Hall’s lead just 2:50 into the second half. Sandler intercepted a Newington pass near midfield and raced down the far sideline before centering the ball to Almeida in the box. He collected the ball, made a move that deked both the goalie and a Newington defender, but his shot slammed off the near post.
With just under 5 minutes played in the second half, Sandler took a blow to the head while working against a Farmington player. The referee issued a yellow card to the Nor’easters player and awarded Hall a free kick. Sandler did the honors and launched a perfectly placed ball that Quinn LaRock banged in to make it 3-1.
Later in the half, Almeida and a Newington defender both went down while chasing a ball into the box. Moments later, Almeida took a pass deep into the box along the endline. He beat two defenders on the dribble before cranking a low, hard shot past Williams to give Hall the three-goal lead. “Sam, Lucas, and our backline have really started to grow and play to their strengths,” Seguro said of his team.
Hall’s final goal came off a fortuitous bounce with just under 19 minutes to play in the game. Once again it was Sandler finding Almeida with a through ball. Almeida outraced a defender to the ball and hit a cross into the mouth of the Newington goal. The ball struck defender Christian Rosado in the chest and fell into the open net, giving Almeida another hat trick on the season.
It was once again a strong team effort for Hall. With LaRock back from injury and returning to the back line with Tommy Nash, Jack DeLoreto, and Copeland Schlatter, Seguro could move Colin Fairchild from back where he, Eli Rotter, and Mark Zardi played a solid midfield with Sandler.
With the lead late in the game, Seguro was able to empty his bench and give his players some valuable experience against a topflight team in the CCC and Class LL. That experience will come in handy for Seguro’s squad as they continue a very demanding schedule. “I think this is one of the toughest regular season schedules we’ve had in a long time,” the coach said.
Next up for the Titans will be Middletown, which is 5-0-1 in its last six. Also coming up is a two-game series with Glastonbury – which like Hall has not lost yet this season, before Hall closes things out with the annual game with crosstown rival Conard.
Seguro expects that each of those will help make his team even stronger. “Every game coming up gets us tournament ready.”
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