EAST HAMPTON >> Despite losing starters to injury and sickness, the East Hampton girls soccer team continues to roll on.
The Bellringers extended its unbeaten streak to five games with a 1-0 Shoreline Conference victory over visiting Cromwell on Monday afternoon.
Junior forward Kayla McLaughlin scored the game-winning goal early in the second half on a play set up by junior Renee Radavich, while senior goalkeeper Alison Bristol preserved the shutout with 13 saves.
“Today was a great win for us,” said East Hampton coach Glenn Gustine, now in his seventh season. “Cromwell is always a very tough side. And we have some kids who are sick and injured so the girls are really stepping up. Anything that sets us back they just keep overcoming obstacles and whatever the challenges are. It’s been a wonderful run so far this year.”
The Bellringers (6-3-2) also qualified for the Class S state tournament with the win. East Hampton was eliminated by Bolton in the second round a year ago.
“This year we want to make a deep run in (states) and hopefully get a lot farther than we did last year,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin almost gave the Bellringers the lead at the end of the first half but she chipped a shot that went off the goalpost.
Just three minutes into the second half, however, Radavich made a nice run from the left side and dished a crossing pass to McLaughlin in front for the only goal.
“It was a nice finish,” Gustine said. “We came out pretty fired up in the second half. We had quite a few other opportunities but we weren’t able to get them in. So we were pretty happy when we picked that one up.”
The Panthers (4-5-2) made a great push for the tying goal in the latter part of the second half
“We were tiring,” said Gustine. “Cromwell threw everything at us and pushed more amd more kids up and we defended well enough to get where we had to go.”
Cromwell seniors Claire Newman and Paige Martin had scoring bids turned away by Bristol. Martin’s opportunity was a direct kick right outside the 18-yard marker.
“East Hampton’s always a tough matchup because of the way they are structured,” said Panthers coach Marcelo Caetano. “They’re strong in the back and they have a phenomenal goalie. Trying to shoot from 18 or 19 yards out is not going to beat her. Our team gave it their all. They worked hard but we have some growing up to do on the field and it will come.”
Bristol’s counterpart, Cromwell junior keeper Allison Bennett, finished with 10 saves.
East Hampton, which boasts wins over Old Saybrook and Morgan, moved within four points behind Old Lyme for the top spot in the SLC Small Division.
“We’ve been having a really good year,” said McLaughlin. “We’ve been really good bonding together and having great motivation on the field. We’ve gotten a lot better as the season progresses. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with our injuries but we were able to work around and a lot of girls stepped up.”