— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) October 2, 2020
WOODBRIDGE — In a normal season for high school student-athletes, the month of September is about getting the seasons started and looking forward to all the endless possibilities. There has been nothing normal the last seven months.
With COVID-19 looming over every aspect of life and with high school sports shut down as the postseason for winter sports was set to begin, normalcy has taken on new shapes and forms.
Close to 200 days without high school sports ended for both the Shelton and Amity girls soccer teams Friday afternoon in Woodbridge.
For 80 minutes, two rivals squared off and a sense of normalcy returned as a tight battle ensued with Shelton prevailing 1-0 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division C battle at Amity High which saw no fans in attendance.
“We have tried not to look at it that way,” Shelton coach Marvin Miller said when talking about normalcy returning. “We have tried to make everything as normal as we could. We have some good players and they have adapted to what we need to do. They have adapted to the restrictions and they have worked hard.
“I am going to steal a line from our boys coach. We need to play every day like it may be our last game of the season because one day it might be. We have to put our heart and soul into everything and hope to play a lot of games like we played Amity today.”
The Spartans had the better of the shot attempts, the play and the scoring opportunities, but a terrific play by Shelton senior Noelle Garretson provided the game’s lone goal with 8 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the contest.
Garretson played a through ball by a pair of Amity defenders, then ripped a shot off the hands of Amity goalkeeper Grace Lodewick to the top corner of the net for the only goal Shelton needed in the win.
“This is huge for us,” Garretson said. “It is a big win. The ball came through to me and I was given the opportunity. My team is a family. We have stood by each other’s side through all of this.”
For Shelton, the goal by Garretson would prove to be enough as the Gaels, led by sophomore Kayleigh Bartlett, held Amity junior Audrey Marin off the scoreboard. While Marin had her opportunities, it was the play of Bartlett which kept Marin from finding the back of the net.
“That 15 (Marin) is everything they say she is and Kayleigh did a great job on her,” Miller said of Bartlett. “That was not the tactic we were going to use, but it worked out well. She did a great job on her.”
“I just had to keep my eye out for her,” Bartlett said of Marin. “I pushed myself even when I started to get cramps. I had to be stronger and faster. I could not let her get in my head. I was just focused on the ball.”
The loss by the Spartans does not show a complete picture as Amity held a 19-10 shot advantage in the game and saw a ball by Martyna Krzysztopik rip off the crossbar from 24 yards out with 21:30 left in the first half.
“It was a good battle,” Amity coach Owen Quigley said. “We play very well here. It is hard for teams to come here and play us. I thought we took the game to them, but we had chances we did not take. When you play against a good team and you don’t take advantage, they will get that one opportunity. They did and they scored.”
The Spartans had numerous scoring chances throughout, but could not get off enough quality shots to beat the goaltending tandem of Shelton’s Julia Pulley and Emily Codere, who combined for 11 saves in the game.
“I thought we got good play from our goalkeepers today,” Miller said. ”In the first half, we survived some rocky moments. I thought we picked it up and played a much better game in the second half.”
While Amity had the better of the play in the first half, which included a pair of scoring chances by Marin which sailed high and wide of the net, and a header which was denied, Shelton took the play to the Spartans to start the second half
After a Bartlett shot just missed the net from 20 yards out, and the Gaels did not convert off a scramble in front, the Gaels seemed to pick up the pace which wore down the Spartans.
“We feel if we are fit enough, we can wear teams down,” Miller said.
Amity’s Krzysztopik was turned aside in front after a perfect feed from Emilia Dottori with 11:45 remaining in what proved to be Amity’s best opportunity in the final 12 minutes.
Lodewick finished with five saves in the loss for Amity.
SHELTON 1, AMITY 0
SHELTON 0 1 — 1
AMITY 0 0 — 0
Goals: 2nd Half: S — Noelle Garretson 8:35. Shots: S — 10; A — 19. Saves: Shelton: Julia Pulley — 5; Emily Codere — 6; Amity: Grace Lodewick – 5.