WEST HAVEN – Lauralton Hall senior Sarah Haselkamp and her teammates knew it would be a challenge to play in the tough Southern Connecticut Conference in the team’s first year since moving from the South-West Conference.
But Haselkamp and her teammates were not going to let a tough schedule get in their way of accomplishing their goals.
Paced by a strong defensive effort and second-half goals by Haselkamp and Grace Healy, the Crusaders took home the SCC Quinnipiac Division title with a 2-0 victory over West Haven at Ken Strong Stadium Monday afternoon.
“This is huge for us,” Haselkamp said after the Crusaders improved to 11-3-1. “We wanted to make an impression in our first year in the league. No one knew us. To win the Quinnipiac Division is a big step. We have played great all season. We have been on a great streak so far.”
The division clincher did not come without a cost for the Crusaders as one of their key players, Jamie Rush, was injured late in the game.
Trying to control the ball, the defender rolled her ankle and had to be helped off the field. While the extent of the injury is not yet known, losing a key defender in Rush is not what the Crusaders were looking for as the postseason approaches.
“I feel for Jamie,” Lauralton coach Pete Trenchard said. “She is someone who has helped us to be in the position we are in today of clinching the Quinnipiac Division.”
West Haven had the early pressure in the second half but could not capitalize. Lauralton’s defense made sure to mark Marisa Pacapelli, Alexis Severino and Gabi Prisco, limiting West Haven’s opportunities.
West Haven’s best early opportunity came when senior Alexia Perez fired a shot wide to the right from 20 yards out three minutes into the second half.
“It was a very competitive first half,” West Haven coach John Camara said after his team fell to 9-4-2.
“In the second half, we got caught standing on our heels. They got a little help with the wind in the second half and we had a tough time getting out of our end. They score on a nice shot and capitalized on a free kick.”
The Crusaders withstood West Haven’s early pressure in the second half and took over play 14 minutes in. Healy tried to get Lauralton on the board first when her corner found Patricia Gildea in front, but Gildea headed a shot wide.
Caroline Monahan then came close as well one minute later, but West Haven goalkeeper Betsy Magana dove to block a Monahan shot and the rebound by Mia Mulin sailed over the net.
Lauralton finally got the only goal it would need with 17:27 remaining in the contest. Haselkamp came down the right side, stopped and fired a bending shot which rang off the far post and into the goal for a 1-0 advantage.
“We kept great possession,” Haselkamp said. “It was a team effort.”
The Westies had two more opportunities to even the game, but Lauralton goalkeeper Colleen McCarthy was up to the challenge.
McCarthy denied Perez from 20 yards out with 16:33 left in the game, then stopped a shot by Pacapelli with 15 minutes to go from 30 yards out.
With McCarthy preserving the lead, Healy clinched the division when she looped a free kick over the hands of Magana and under the crossbar with 4:17 left in the game.
“We did an excellent job shutting down a tough team,” Trenchard said. “We were able to shut them down and that was the key. It is an honor to win the division. It really is. You look at the teams we have to play in West Haven, Hamden, Mercy and Sacred Heart. They are tough teams to play.”
McCarthy finished with four saves in the shutout, while Magana made nine saves in the loss.
Lauralton Hall 2, West Haven 0
(at West Haven)
Lauralton Hall 0 2 — 2
West Haven 0 0 — 0
Second half—LHA: Sarah Haselkamp 17:27; Grace Healy 4:17;
Shots—LHA: 16; WH: 7;
Saves—LHA: Colleen McCarthy 4; WH: Betsy Magana 7;
Records—Lauralton Hall 11-3-1; West Haven 9-4-2