NEW BRITAIN — The tension, drama and excitement built with each second of Saturday’s Class LL Girls Soccer Tournament final between Glastonbury and Southington, which seemed destined to head into overtime, as both squads were embroiled in a scoreless duel.
Then it happened.
Junior Samantha Forrest sent a pass to senior Mackenzie Baker, who moved the ball back to Forrest for a shot Glastonbury will long remember.
Receiving a pass from Baker near the top of the box, Forrest booted her shot inside the left post with 5:38 remaining in the second half, propelling third-seeded Glastonbury to a thrilling 1-0 win over top-seeded Southington in the Class LL title game at New Britain High School’s Veterans Stadium.
The victory put the finishing touch on an 18-1-1 season for the Tomahawks, who last won the state championship in 2016.
The game-winning goal occurred shortly after Southington applied pressure on Glastonbury at their end of the field. The Forrest-Baker connection broke loose on strong runs down the field, resulting in the game’s lone goal – one that Glastonbury will be talking about for a while. Forrest’s shot snuck past Southington senior goalie Lexi Almeida, who made a diving attempt to her right to stop the shot.
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“It felt crazy, it didn’t feel really feel,” Forrest said of her game-winning tally. “One second I had the ball at my feet, the other I was hugging Mackenzie, the teammate who assisted me. After I scored that goal, I couldn’t breathe. I was more out of breath after that than the whole game. I asked for the ball back from Mackenzie and she gave it to me and I said to myself, ‘do it for the team.”
Said Baker: “On that play, I want to find Sam’s feet and if I did that, I knew it was going into the back of the net. This is the best feeling in the world, to finally get here is amazing.”
The goal in the 74th minute marked the first time all season Southington (17-1-2) trailed all season. Coached by Mike Linehan, the Knights shut out Amity, New Canaan and Ridgefield on their way to advancing to the Class LL championship matchup.
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“It was a great season, you look at what we did prior to this tournament run, we never got out of the first game, so making it to the finals is a great accomplishment for our team,” Linehan said. “This was the first time we were behind in a game all year. We have a young team and we’ll be back next year.”
Junior goalie Charlotte Bassett made five saves for Glastonbury, which received another strong defensive effort.
“Our best quality as a team is combining the ball and I think the second half we did a better job of combining the ball and staying composed,” said Glastonbury senior defender Sophia Desaulniers, who is one of the squad’s captains. “We had a few good chances and I knew it was coming. Our team had to stay composed and play our game. I was confident in our defense, we just had to work on putting it away on offense.”
In the first half, Forrest and freshman Riley Carroll applied pressure early on. Carroll’s shot off a Forrest cross was saved by Almeida in the 17th minute, keeping it a scoreless game. Almeida stopped another Tomahawks shot in the 36th minute and in the 42nd minute, made a save off a 1-on-1 situation from close in against Forrest.
Junior midfielder Abigail Sowa knocked several long, arcing free kicks into the box that nearly found its mark for Southington, which was paced defensively by senior Jordan Beaudoin and junior Lauren Verrilli.
“We had some chances, we needed to get more of them,” Linehan said. “We were 17-1-2 overall, with that type of record, I’m proud of them. This was a big stage for them and our team played extremely well.”
Baker, who was shifted to the backline for the title matchup, helped lead the victor’s defensive effort, along with senior captain Chloe Landers and Desaulniers. Landers and Desaulniers were the two Glastonbury players who competed on the squad’s 2016 team that claimed the Class LL crown.
“My freshman year in 2016, that was our first time winning it,” Desaulniers said. “The past two years have been hard, we lost in the semis twice, so it’s nice to win this game and it’s great for the seniors to end their season with a championship.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Forrest’s goal was the difference this back-and-forth battle.
“Samantha joined the program last year and she loves the pressure that comes with playing in these type of games,” Glastonbury coach Joe Finocchiaro said. “She loves the pressure and she wants to face it.”
TOMAHAWKS’ TURNING POINT
Since dropping a 3-0 decision to Southington in the regular season, Glastonbury won its final eight games, allowing only one goal in the process.
“We used that game to turn it around,” Finocchiaro said. “Southington is a great team with a stingy defense and they’re a good passing team. It’s tough to beat a team twice in one season.”
“Being a part of that goal was one of the best moments of my career,” Baker said. “To finish off my career like that – it was the best way to end it.”
Said Forrest: “We hadn’t won the title since our freshman year, so we broke the curse after not winning it for two years and it means the world to us. We ended up staying strong as a team and we got it done.”