Conard hosted South Windsor in West Hartford on a night that was also dedicated to cancer fundraising and awareness.
By Paul Palmer
On an evening with special meaning for the Conard and West Hartford communities, the Red Wolves boys team played 75 minutes of inspired soccer. Unfortunately, South Windsor took advantage of the other 15 minutes and rallied from two goals down to tie things at 3-3.
Tuesday’s game marked the annual Conard vs. Cancer fundraising and awareness night, an annual tradition following the death of former Conard girls soccer coach Kerrie Massaro from breast cancer in 2021 at age 49. “I said to the team before the game that we were playing for more than ourselves tonight,” said Conard head coach Becca Lewis.
This year the battle with cancer was especially close to Lewis’ heart. The former Hall girls softball coach lost a very special former player this past year. Jackie Hamad was a senior at Hall, and a three-sport athlete (including softball) who died from an aggressive brain cancer in the spring. “It didn’t matter if she started, or was the last player off the bench – she was always about team,” said Lewis.
About $800 was raised in a raffle held during the game, and the funds will be split between charities honoring both Massaro and Hamad.
Tuesday’s game was a back-and-forth battle that saw each team have ample chances to win, right down to the last seconds of play. Just under halfway through the opening half, Colin Scrimgeour squared a ball to Lucas Hartland whose shot was saved by Bobcats’ goalie Elijan Chaimovich. Moments later, it was Steve Rivera Valos breaking in on the Conard goal, only to be chased down by Jack Clayton.
Senior midfielder Gabe Sosa scored his first and the game’s first goal when he converted a Chris Roberts pass to give the host team the lead.
South Windsor played to its strength on offense using the speed and exceptional skills of senior Andrew Monteserin. The Bobcats used long through balls and long aerial efforts to take advantage of his speed racing past defenders. It paid off at 18:36 of the first when Monteserin picked up the ball and raced in alone on Conard goalie Benn Hammond. As the keeper came off his line to challenge, Monteserin pushed the ball wide and tracked it down before it went out, and calmly slotted it in the back of the net to tie things.
The next three goals were things of beauty each in their own right. The first came from Conard defender Aidan Policelli when the senior defender let a high, lofting ball goal from about 35 yards away that drifted over the outstretched hand of Chaimovich and floated into the top, far corner of the net.
South Windsor had a golden chance to equalize with just under 3 minutes to play when Alex Ouellet came in one-on-one with Hammond, but the senior goalie was equal to the task to hold the game at 2-1 Conard.
Eight minutes after the intermission it was Sosa again with a brilliant score. Michael Guildner used great vision to see Sosa begin his run and lofted a ball that Sosa headed forward. He outraced a defender to the ball to the right side of the net and cut a shot back on goal that sailed into the far side for the 3-1 lead.
The third special goal of the game came from Monteserin, who scored the second goal of his hat trick with a perfectly placed free kick from 35 yards out that was just beyond the reach of Hammond.
“They have a really special kid up top [Monteserin] and he showed why tonight,” said Lewis. The South Windsor striker would collect his third of the game 3 minutes later when a defensive lapse allowed him to get off a hard shot that Hammond had no chance to stop.
Conard did have some opportunities to get a game winner, but a combination of a questionable call, a questionable non-call, and some good defense for the Bobcats thwarted the efforts of the Red Wolves. The first came when Conard had possession in the attacking zone and a player was fouled. Conard maintained possession and the attack with the official closest to the play signaling the play on, but the official on the opposite side of the field blew his whistle and called the foul. A few minutes later Conard earned a throw-in and South Windsor sought to substitute. As the Red Wolves player began to start the throw-in, one official blew his whistle to signal a substitution for the visitors while the home team had the ball. After the stoppage for the substitution, the other referee awarded South Windsor the throw-in saying Conard was guilty of an illegal throw on the play that was stopped by the original whistle.
The non-call came with fewer than 2 seconds to play as Conard was attacking inside the box. A player was challenged from behind and run over while possessing the ball, but the officials ate their whistles and let the clock run out on the 3-all tie much to the dismay of the home side.
After the game a disappointed Lewis said that her club made a defensive adjustment to try and contain Monteserin. “We came out strong but they changed formations and started sending more players forward,” said the coach. “We did some very good things on offense tonight.”
Conard sits at 1-1-2 through four games this season and is back in action Friday when they travel to Tolland.
The efforts by Lewis to raise funs to battle cancer will continue on Oct. 1 when she comes together with a group of friends and West Hartford Public Schools personnel to take part in the Jimmy Fund Walk in Boston. They will walk the Boston Marathon Route to raise funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute – a place where Hamad received some of her treatment. Anyone wishing to donate to help them reach their goal can go to www.danafarber.jimmyfund/org, click on the “donate” link and type in “Team Jackie.”
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