The Hall girls soccer team hosted Berlin Tuesday night in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Sometimes in sports, a loss can be a win.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” said Hall girls head soccer coach Scott Ferguson after Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Berlin. “They tried to do the right things and the more you that you do that the more success you’ll have.”
On the season, the Titans have struggled to put the ball in the net but have been very strong at keeping it out of their own net. In their nine games so far this season, Hall has only managed to score two or more goals in two games. Three times they have scored just a single goal, and four times they have been held without a goal.
On defense, only seven opponents’ shots have found the back of the net, and four times the Titans’ defense has secured a shutout. What will make or break the team this year though, is finding the way to make sure they can get at least one goal, and even after the loss Tuesday, Ferguson saw signs of things getting better.
“We were creating opportunities and I was happy with the way we played in the second half,” he said. Part of that growth will come from younger players getting valuable time in games and realizing they can compete with older opponents. “We played two freshmen – Kyra Baun and Alexandria Ackerman – in attack. When they settle in it is going to be exciting,” Ferguson said.
Berlin came into the matchup on a three-game win streak, having not lost all season (5-0-2), and at times showed why. The Redcoats sport a lineup that’s loaded with upperclassmen, boasting speed, strength, and the ability to close an opposing offense down and turn it into their own attack.
Julia Palmese nearly delivered the pass to get the game’s first goal but just missed teammate Ava Desmarais. Moments later it was Bella Salina dribbling past several Hall defenders before Talia Sortman got the slide tackle in to neutralize the threat. With just under 5 minutes to play in the half, Berlin had what may have been its best chance when a hard-struck free kick from 30 yards out was right on goal. Hall goalie Gabriella Deslauriers calmly went up and secured the ball.
“We were really solid defensively,” said Ferguson. “The next thing is knowing this is how we play and then building confidence.”
Hall did have its chances in the opening 40 minutes, including a wonderful passing play between Ackerman, Baun, and Leah Berey that ended with a shot going just wide. Later it was Baun again playing the role of the play creator when she attempted to slide a through ball to a breaking Sarah Punt, but the ball had just a little too much pace and Berlin goalie Grace Ramirez managed to get to the ball first. There was a lot for both teams to be happy about after the first 40 minutes of play, and it set up a thrilling second half.
The visiting Redcoats continuously prodded the left side of the Hall defense, looking for opportunities to exploit it and create a goal. Janalyn Weber and Morgan Napolitano worked in tandem to try to find an opening with through balls and passes over the top to try. They used their speed to race down the sideline and get off dangerous crosses. Less than 6 minutes in, Bella Salina had one of Berlin’s best chances when she hit a low, dipping shot towards the near post that Deslauriers blocked off and pushed wide for a corner kick.
Seventeen minutes later it was Madisen McBride taking the ball away from a Hall player at midfield and racing into the center of the field and closing in on goal, only to see her bid stopped by Deslauriers. Hall found its rhythm on offense as the second half played out, and 28 minutes in went on a run that saw quicker passes leading to better scoring chances and shots on goal.
“We have to know that we have to create more opportunities and then the ball will get in the net for us,” Ferguson said of his offense.
With both sides pushing for what could be the winning goal, the defenses were at their best shutting down chance after chance at both ends of the field. Berling finally broke through and it was those continued pushes up their right side that finally paid off. With just over 6 minutes to play it was Weber earning a corner kick for her team. The original cross was knocked straight up in the air in front of the Hall goal about 12 yards out and Weber pounced on the ball, squared it to Sydney Bronk who fired a turnaround left-footed shot into the far corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Hall had one more solid chance as they pressed forward with the clock running down. The ball was just a hair in front of Madison Maxwell as she streaked into the box and tried to catch up with the cross coming in from the left side.
Hall would finish with more corners and more shots on goal than Berlin, but the Redcoats made the most of their limited opportunities on offense.
“Credit to them” said Ferguson of Berlin. “At the end they took advantage of their opportunity.”
The Titans now stand at 4-3-2 on the season and host Maloney on Friday. They have seven games remaining on their schedule, and Ferguson is counting on his team to continue putting things together, continue learning, and continue working as they head for what they hope will be a spot in the state tournament.
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