WEST HARTFORD>> When Northwest Catholic had a chance to set up its offense, it thrived.
The 14th-seeded Indians scored four goals on either corner kicks or free kicks to beat No. 19 Sacred Heart Academy 4-2 in the first round of the Class L state tournament on Tuesday at Neil J. Brewer Field.
Senior captain Madison Borowiec had a part in two of them.
With 23:47 left in the second half, Borowiec set up to receive a corner kick. The ball came into the box untouched and she knocked it it with her head to give Northwest Catholic a 3-0 lead.
“That goal that she scored off the header, that’s who she is, that’s not a fluke,” said Northwest Catholic coach Todd Sadler, whose team improved to 11-5-1 and advances to face No. 3 RHAM in the second round Thursday in Hebron at 2 p.m. “She scored four or five of those this year. No other girl really wants to head a ball that’s driven that hard at them, but she got up there and snapped it off and great finish and that pretty much the game winner.”
The goal proved to be much more important than it seemed at the time.
About two minutes later Sacred Heart Academy’s Mary Verneris was fouled near the top of the box and had a direct kick opportunity. The senior fired a shot just over the top of the wall to get the Pacers (8-7-2) on the board.
“All it takes is one silly little mistake [to change] the game,” Sadler said. “Silly foul at the top of the box and now they’re back in it. I’ll give them credit for fighting. [They] could have easily tied it and I would have been surprised. It didn’t really feel like we were up 3-0 when we were up 3-2.”
Verneris scored again about six minutes later to make the score 3-2.
“The momentum right there had swung,” Sacred Heart Academy coach George Bedocs said. “We were looking to go to goal the whole second half. Those two goals made a whole difference
“But we didn’t come up with the third one which is the most important. You have to give them credit, they hung in there, we had them back on their heels at 3-2 and they came back with the fourth goal on another corner kick and solved their problem.”
Both coaches agreed that the Pacers came out faster and in control. But after the Indians stole a goal early, the momentum turned.
“We started out a little flat,” Sadler said. “I didn’t really anticipate that, because I thought we had a good week of practice, we had a good scrimmage. We played last week too, where a lot of teams didn’t have a meaningful game, we had a league game against Newington on Wednesday, so I don’t think we really had any excuses to come out flat. But I’ll give them credit, they came out willing to fight and certainly made a game of it.
“I think us getting the goal was a little bit unfair to be honest. They were on us pretty good and then we scored kind of against the run of play.”
Charlotte Carew knocked the ball in at the 14:29 mark in the first off a corner kick.
The final Northwest Catholic goal came with 9:02 left in the game. Rachel Elliott found a hole in the defense and put the game away from another set play.
“We did a great job today on our set pieces,” Sadler said. “All four goals were corners and free kicks. You practice stuff and hope they can execute and that helped us today, because during the run of play we didn’t play our best game. So I’m happy that we did that, I’m happy that we can advance and move on.”
The only other times these two teams have played that Sadler can remember was back in 2008.
“We played back in 2008, my second year and they beat us at their place,” he said. “It was a crossover game back when Farmington had just left the Northwest Conference, so we needed a fill-in game. So they beat us. I kind of had that way in the back of my head yesterday. I wasn’t thinking about it during the game though.”