FAIRFIELD >> The Southern Connecticut Conference realigned soccer divisions in the off-season. Teams could be in one division for boys soccer and be in a completely different division for girls soccer.
And some teams changed divisions, yet still ended up as division rivals. West Haven and Fairfield Prep, once longtime Quinnipiac Division foes, renewed its rivalry at Rafferty Stadium Wednesday afternoon as members of the SCC Hammonasset.
“We’ve always split games and been super-competitive, which always makes this game such a great game,” Fairfield Prep senior Biagio Paoletta said.
Said Prep coach Ryan Lyddy: “It (the rivalry) will never end.”
Prep won Wednesday’s battle 3-2, at points dominating the Westies, then having to sweat out one final shot from the reigning two-time Register Area MVP.
Salah Oumorou, already with a goal on a penalty kick, had a chance at the tying goal with 3 minutes left in regulation, but Paoletta, the sweeperback, cut in front to distract Oumorou enough for him to fly the ball high over the goal.
“I knew he had an insane shot and I knew I had to get in front of it or it could tie the game,” Paoletta said. “I just made sure he couldn’t go far post, so he had to go near post. He was going near post, but it was high. It was a scary shot.”
The Jesuits (4-0) fell behind 1-0 on an incredibly difficult shot by Abdoul Aremu less than 12 minutes into the game. Then Andrew Neumeyer scored the equalizer with just over 17 minutes left in the half and Tim Lyons the go-ahead goal on a header off Paoletta’s assist.
“I think the first half, we could’ve put them away very easily. Obviously coulda, shoulda, woulda,” Lyddy said.
Prep, which outshot West Haven 15-4, continued to put pressure on West Haven’s defense in the second half. The Jesuits scored the final goal in the 59th minute, Nate Montani from Neumeyer.
“I hit it as hard as I could and Nate was on the other end of it,” Neumeyer said.
Oumorou’s penalty kick came with 15:35 remaining after Malcolm Antoine was taken down in the box. But Prep was able to keep the UConn-bound forward under wraps most of the game.
“We were not going to change our game plan for one guy,” Lyddy said. “He’s got to go through 11 of us. If that’s the case, he deserves the goal. I thought we did a pretty good job in the first half shutting him down, nicking him a little bit, getting him a little frustrated. His body language was showing a little bit.”
At 1-3, West Haven was in a similar position at this point last season after losing to Prep on the road. But West Haven coach Pete Hamasian feels a lot better about his club now than in September of 2015.
“It definitely seems like we are in a similar position as last year. We are a completely different team,”
Hamasian said. “We’re so young and inexperienced that I expected to have growing pains. This is a solid performance for them. I thought we were much more organized than we were the last few games. … Definitely don’t have some of the technical players like we had in the past like Blaise (Haba) and Ulises (Hernandez). We are going to build it with 20 passes, we are going to build it defensively and we are going to live to counter attack.”
As for the Jesuits, they now travel to Madison tonight to face Hand, which hasn’t lost a regular season game in almost three years.
“Today we came one step closer to being a disciplined team,” Lyddy said. “We’ll see what we are made of and see if we can end their streak.”
Prep and West Haven play again on Oct. 17 at Strong Stadium in West Haven.