WEST HAVEN >> It’s always a much-debated topic as the regular season comes to a close for soccer: how much time do you spend working on penalty kicks?
For teams that reside in the Southern Connecticut Conference, no overtime is used during the regular season, so there’s little need to practice early on. But how much preparation is too much?
Cheshire girls soccer coach James Luis has an interesting take on how the Rams prepare.
“The more you train and do them, the more misses you have, the worse it becomes on the psyche,” Luis said. “As soon as we have a couple of good ones, see something beautiful, the training is done. (Keep) everything positive.”
The philosophy obviously worked: No. 2 seed Cheshire made all five of its penalty kicks to win the Southern Connecticut Conference girls soccer tournament title over top-seeded Hand, 5-4 in PKs. The game was tied 1-1 through regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.
Bridget Loura, a senior, cooly poked it past Hand keeper Lily Gershwin to set off the Rams’ celebration. Loura was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“You just have to keep a positive mind and make sure you make the shot,” Loura said.
Said Luis: “The pressure she was under to get up there and put it away like she did, and find a corner, hit it with pace, that’s tremendous. … She went up there cool, calm and collected.”
It’s Cheshire’s first SCC title since 2011. The Rams (16-3) now have won or shared six league tournament titles.
Hand (14-2-3) was seeking its first SCC crown since sharing the title with Cheshire in 2009.
“I’m proud of my kids. They played a great tournament,” Hand coach Dave Dikranian said.
Neither team scored until there was 7:45 left in regulation. Cheshire’s Lila McNamee broke through for a goal.
Gabriella Egidio scored the equalizer with just 2:11 left in regulation.
“We wanted to keep the momentum going,” Dikranian said. “There were moments where we struggled, but for a good portion of the overtime, I thought we had a good part of the play.”
After not getting a shot off in the first overtime period, the Tigers had five in the second, all saved by Sam Matthews.
Allison Leonetti, Kaitlyn Loura, Saige Bingman and McNamee all made PKs for Cheshire, a couple of which Gershwin got her hand on off a dive, but couldn’t control.
Riley Kokoruda, Nicole Luongo, Ashleigh Violette and Vivianna Mazzarella all made PKs for Hand, but Sophia Dickman missed wide right.
“Her record of hitting PKs is pretty good,” Dikranian said.
Cheshire 1, Hand 1
(Cheshire wins 5-4 PKs)
Cheshire 0 1 0 0 — 1
Hand 0 1 0 0 — 1
Second half—CH: Lila McNamee 72:15; HD: Gabby Edidio 77:49;
Shots—CH: 16; HD: 13;
Saves—CH: Sam Matthews 5; Zoe Riccio 3; HD: Lily Geshwind 9;
Records—Cheshire 16-3; Hand 14-2-3