EAST HAMPTON >> Coginchaug came to East Hampton Monday afternoon sitting atop the Shoreline Conference with a perfect record. But the Blue Devils left with a blemish.
East Hampton’s defense bent but did not break as the Bellringers edged the Blue Devils, 2-1.
Coginchaug (6-1) put offensive pressure on the stingy East Hampton defense for most of the game, firing 14 shots. Only one, however, could get past Bellringers goalie Alison Bristol.
“We just couldn’t find the back of the net,” said Coginchaug coach Megan Kavanaugh. “[Even though] we put together periods of time when we did everything right.”
East Hampton struck first when sophomore Kayla McLaughlin redirected a rebound off the hands of Blue Devils keeper Kara Mather and into the net.
“We were trying to get numbers in front of the goal and keep pressure on them and sometimes good things happen if you get yourself in good spots,” said East Hampton coach Glenn Gustine. “It’s not always pretty, but can be effective.”
With 8:23 left in the first half, East Hampton had the lead. The way the Coginchaug offense was attacking, it was evident one would not be enough.
“I give my hats off to Coginchaug,” said Gustine. “They’re a really good team and they definitely carried the game for long stretches today.”
The Blue Devils came out of halftime and controlled possession again. Finally, senior Victoria Buonanni got enough space about 25 yards out to fire a shot. The ball sailed over everyone and dropped just enough to hit the bottom of the crossbar, over the hands of Bristol, and bounce in for a 1-1 tie midway through the second half.
“She can hit it,” said Kavanaugh on Buonanni. “There aren’t very many players that can hit a shot from 25 yards out that has a chance to go in, but she’s got that ability and our team needed that spark at that point.”
This was the first goal East Hampton has given up since a season-opening 1-1 tie against Old Lyme, ending a streak of six consecutive shutouts.
The Bellringers made a couple of runs throughout the game coming out of defensive stops where they had a chance but were shut down. Late in the second half, Natalie Dash streaked down the right sideline, in front of both benches, and with a defender on her heels, made a pass to McLaughlin. Dash cut across the 16, received a return pass from McLaughlin and, while leaning away from the goal, the sophomore managed to get off a shot with her left foot just past Mather for the game-winner.
“That was a really nice combination that we practiced,” said Gustine. “They were able to utilize the space to get the defenders running across the grain the wrong way and that freed up just enough space for the pass – it was nice placement there; it was not over hit, she didn’t panic, she settled down and it was a clinical finish; she put it in the right spot at the right time.”
The Bellringers (7-0-1) are the only team in the Shoreline Conference without a loss.
“Their defense has always been solid,” said Kavanaugh. “They traditionally play with a lot more people in the back and they try and counter and it works really well for them.”