FALLS VILLAGE — Litchfield hung on for a 2-1 Class S second round win at Housatonic High School Thursday afternoon after Ali O’Neill spotted the Cowgirls to a 2-0 first-half lead over their Berkshire League rivals.
A tight crowd near the top of this year’s BL made it less of an upset than Litchfield’s No. 14 seed (12-6) vs. Housatonic’s No. 3 (11-5-1) suggests.
“We just beat them by one and they lost to Nonnewaug and Northwestern by one, so we knew they were tough,” Housatonic’s coach, Steve Dodge, said.
“We were ready for this,” first-year Litchfield coach Marissa Quesnel said.
Nevertheless, the first 20 minutes made the Mountaineers — Class S runners-up three years ago — look readier.
Litchfield freshman Ella Demers had the game’s first shot just a minute in, but the Mountaineers took over possession along with three straight shots after that, including a header off the Litchfield post.
But 22 minutes in, O’Neill delivered her first shocker — a corner kick from the right side curling high into the net.
“I’m a lefty, so I have that angle,” said O’Neill, whose shot was her fifth corner-kick goal of the season.
“I say to myself, ‘You can do this” before I take them,” O’Neill said. “This was my best because it was higher up. Usually they drop down.”
“Their first goal set the tone,” Dodge said. “We had a lot of opportunities, but several of our best came when we had to left-foot them.”
The results were slow bouncers to Litchfield keeper Sydney Donahue (8 saves).
If O’Neill’s first goal set the game’s tone, her second, in the 25th minute, ripped it open.
Taking a pass in the clear, 20 yards straight out from the Mountaineer goal, she blasted her shot high into the net over Housy keeper Molly Dowd’s head.
“I thought about settling it, but I heard a defender behind me so I decided I should go ahead and take it,” said O’Neill, a senior headed for a post-graduate year in prep school.
Up 2-0, the Cowgirls turned to defense.
“We just went with a block of eight and rode the clock,” Quesnel said.
That meant nail biting for Quesnel and her bench while the Mountaineers took their best chances in the first six minutes while keeping the ball in Litchfield territory for most of the second half.
With 14 minutes left, the pressure skyrocketed.
Housatonic sweeper Emily Geyselaers launched a free kick from midfield into the penalty box. It took a high bounce, slightly deflected, then slipped through Donohue’s hands. In the scramble for the loose ball, Mountaineer Sierra O’Niel chested it in for the goal.
Litchfield’s intensity ramped up. Housatonic had just one more good chance for the tie — wide right off a corner kick with three minutes remaining.
The Cowgirls rode it out.
Litchfield travels to No. 11 East Hampton Saturday afternoon (2 p.m.) for the quarterfinals.
No. 14 Litchfield 2, No. 3 Housatonic 1
(at Housatonic High School)
Litchfield 2 0 — 2
Housatonic 0 1 — 1
Goals: L — Ali O’Neill 2. H — Sierra O’Niel. Assist: L — Caroline Donovan. Shots: 9-5 Housatonic. Saves: L — Sydney Donohue 8. H — Molly Dowd 3.
Records: Litchfield 12-6; Housatonic 11-5-1.