WINSTED >> Both teams played like they had a future, in Northwestern’s 3-0 boys soccer win over Shepaug Tuesday afternoon.
The Spartans (3-4) were 3-1 before running into all three of the Berkshire League’s top teams (Lewis Mills, Nonnewaug and Northwestern) in the span of a week.
“We’ve talked a lot about character,” said Coach Jim Stinson.
Tuesday, Northwestern dominated 20-7 in shots, but it was a one-goal game until the middle of the second half.
“You didn’t quit,” beamed Stinson to his team at the end of the game.
The Spartans look forward to brighter prospects on their schedule.
The Highlanders (6-1) go the other way, facing a showdown Thursday with league-leading Mills (7-0) at Northwestern.
The Burlington Spartans are the only one of the top three to run away with their win over Shepaug (6-1).
“We played 23 guys today, so we should be rested,” said Coach Andy Campbell.
The starters honed their game.
“In the past week, we’ve been finishing better,” said Will Scharneberg.
Six minutes into Tuesday’s game, the rangy senior captain slipped a cross from the right side of the goal past a Shepaug defender who slipped on the wet grass.
“We’re finishing better; we’ve scored 18 goals in our last four games,” said Evan Dolecki, five feet from the goal on Scharneberg’s pass.
Shepaug junior goalkeeper Clayton Schneider (13 saves) had no chance for Dolecki’s tap-in, but helped keep the score 1-0 for the next 52 minutes.
“He’s in his first year and he keeps getting better,” said Coach Stinson. “He’s becoming a vocal leader for us.”
“It was nice to get an early one,” said Coach Campbell.
Spartan senior forward Christian Stuart threatened to even the score with a near-breakaway 12 minutes into the game, his shot skimming just right of the post.
The Highlanders blasted a shot off a defender in close, 22 minutes into the half; another Northwestern shot from in close sailed over the net three minutes from the break.
The score stood 1-0; Shepaug had the first dangerous ball, off Stuart’s foot, two minutes into the second half.
Northwestern junior keeper Dan Winkler (7 saves) came out for the stop.
Senior captain Zach Tuxbury broke free for the Highlanders in the ninth minute, wide left.
In the 17th, Winkler dove for a save at Northwestern’s end; Dolecki’s shot was just over Shepaug’s cross bar on the counter.
A minute later, Winter Thorne-Kaneulis drove a pure shot in from 30 yards on the right wing.
“We’re crossing fields better,” he said.
The Spartans didn’t quit, but 2-0 looked solid.
Icing came just eight minutes from the end of the game.
Following a take-down in the Shepaug penalty box, Northwestern’s Dylan Johnson pounded a penalty shot off the bottom of the crossbar and in for the final score.
“We’re linking more passes together,” said Johnson in the final tune-up for hosting Mills.
“I like how well we moved the ball,” said Shepaug coach Stinson, whose team hosts 0-6-1 Gilbert Friday.
Northwestern 3, Shepaug 0
At Northwestern High School
Shepaug 0 0 – 0
Northwestern 1 2 – 3
Goals: NW – Evan Dolecki; Winter Thorne-Kaneulis; Dylan Johnson. Assist: NW – Will Scharneberg. Shots: 20-7 Northwestern. Saves: S – Clayton Schneider 13. NW – Dan Winkler 7.
Records: Shepaug 3-4; Northwestern 6-1.