CROMWELL >> North Branford freshman Lexie Rosado scored a breakaway goal in the 92nd minute to lift the T-birds to a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over Cromwell in the Shoreline Conference tournament semifinals Tuesday night at Cromwell High School.
North Branford (10-2-6) will meet top-seed and defending champion Old Lyme for the championship Friday in Portland.
“The girls just worked their tails off and now they’re being rewarded for their efforts,” North Branford coach Pat Kozloski said.
The T-birds will be making their first SLC finals appearance under Kozloski, who is in his fourth season.
“We’d like to act like we’ve been there before but we haven’t,” said Kozloski, whose club defeated Old Saybrook 2-1 in the quarterfinals last Saturday.
Yup, the T-birds have played in six tie games this season, including a 1-1 draw against Cromwell back on October 13. But it’s tournament time, which means 20 minute overtime sessions and, if necessary, dreaded penalty kicks to decide a winner.
Tied at 1 after regulation, the Panthers and T-birds were embroiled in a physical up and down game with both teams garnering terrific scoring opportunities in the extra session.
Rosado’s game-winning goal came with just 7 minutes and 23 seconds left in overtime.
“It was a great finish,” Kozloski said. “Lexie showed great composure.”
After the ball was punted into the Panthers end, Rosado used her speed to split two defenders and pushed a shot past sophomore keeper Seraphina McKiernan (six saves).
“I just placed it and it happened to get past the goalie,” Rosado said. “We’re excited to get to the finals.”
Cromwell (12-3-2) grabbed a 1-0 lead when junior forward Jenna Serrantino knocked in a rebound in the 26th minute.
North Branford, however, notched the equalizer when Caitlin May knocked in a shot from in front off a nice crossing pass from Mackenzie MacGowan.
“Being even at the half was big,” Kozloski said. “Now we don’t have to chase the game. We can continue to play our formation and play North Branford soccer. It allowed us to stay in the game and ultimately win.”
After Rosado’s goal, Cromwell nearly tied it with a little less than two minutes remaining. Panthers sophomore midfielder Cara Jordan made a move past a defender and slipped a forward pass to Eliza Weston but Weston’s shot from just outside the 18-yard line sailed over the crossbar.
“It’s one of our things this year where we’ve kind of been struggling to score,” Cromwell coach Marcelo Caetano said. “It’s a game of inches and that’s what happened today.”
Cromwell outshot the T-birds 13-10.
North Branford sophomore keeper Allie Augur had a strong game, finishing with 12 saves.
“When you face a goalie like that you can’t make mistakes and you have to make the most of your opportunities,” Caetano said. “We’ve had a good year but we need to pick it up. We’re young and we’ll come back tomorrow and get ready for states.”