Don’t look now but there is a team sitting atop of the Southern Connecticut Conference standings you may not have expected to be there.
Sure, Cheshire is a Class LL school just three seasons removed from winning the league championship, but the Rams have struggled the last couple of seasons. And with a lot of seniors having graduated in the offseason and some key injuries suffered since, having Cheshire with a 9-1-2 record tied with Guilford atop the league standings is somewhat of a surprise.
“This is way above my expectations. Coming in we had a pretty young team, graduated a decent number of seniors. We only returned two seniors who played varsity last year,” Cheshire coach Kylee McIntosh said. “This (the record) is definitely nice to see. You’re not always looking at the larger picture. It’s nice to take a step back and see your name at the top.”
McIntosh is used to playing with expectations. She played for the Rams from 2006-09, reaching the Class LL state final in 2008. A Register All-Area selection as a senior in 2009, McIntosh went on to play at Marist.
She served as an assistant for the Rams under James Luis the last couple of seasons. Then she landed her first varsity job at her alma mater.
“I think it was an easy transition for the girls knowing someone (in charge),” McIntosh said. “It’s nice to go back to where you originally were. I was definitely nervous being a head coach for the first time.”
McIntosh said the Rams lost three key players to knee injuries: Olivia Jones in the spring, Caroline Campion — who will play at McIntosh’s other alma mater, Marist, next season — at the beginning of this season and, most recently, Izzy Pellegrino, a starter on defense.
Senior center-midfielder Marisa Brough is one of the team’s leaders in addition to her success on the pitch. Freshman Gabby Tirado has helped make up for the loss of Campion up top by scoring a team-leading 10 goals.
Outside back Ally Pergolotti is second on the team in scoring. Goalkeeper Simone Rosenberg has “been phenomenal,” according to McIntosh. Rosenberg has posted seven shutouts.
“I think everyone, including the coaches have bought in on the idea of (playing with) grit and mental toughness,” McIntosh said. “They want to be successful and want to do well. It’s a great group of girls. They want to win for themselves and want to win for the program.”
Among the shutouts Rosenberg has came on Oct. 11 at Guilford. Although the Rams didn’t avenge their lone loss — and Guilford would hold the tiebreaker if the two teams finish tied atop the league standings — it was a solid performance in a scoreless tie.
“They (Guilford) were dominating in the first half. We talked at halftime about, ‘What kind of team do you want to be known as?’ We dominated (in the second half) and had a ton of chances. It was upsetting we didn’t get any into the back of the net,” McIntosh said.
The Rams have four regular-season games left to try and earn the top seed in the SCC tournament and a high seed in the Class LL state tournament.
Last season, Haddam-Killingworth went 4-9-3 and missed both the Class M state and Shoreline Conference playoffs.
Don’t look now but the Cougars have turned things around, standing at 9-3-1 with three games left this season.
“Our season has been a good one thus far,” said Haddam-Killingworth coach Mike Shea, the team’s third coach in as many years. “The hope is to finish strong even though it won’t be easy.”
Haddam-Killingworth plays its final three games this week all at home: Tuesday against four-time Class S state champ Old Lyme, Thursday against Shoreline defending champion Morgan and Friday against Valley Regional, where seniors Ashley Duncanson and Rebecca Fisher will be honored.
“We have a very big week in front of us. We have three teams that are traditionally strong. They all have winning records again this season with some very skilled players,” Shea said.
Toni Domingos scored seven goals this week, four against Bethel and three against New Milford (4-0 win), giving her 27 for the season.
The junior is already verbally committed to play at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2021.
“Toni is one of the best players I have ever coached, and I’ve been around for 43 years,” said Notre Dame coach Wayne Mones. Among his stops was the former Central Catholic High in Norwalk and 18 years at Western Connecticut State University.
“Because she has the total package: expolosive skills, speed, tenacity. You can try to beat her up, yet she keeps coming back. She has matured in terms of not responding to people trying to hurt her on the field. She keeps playing,
Mones said Domingos has scored in every single game this season. He said Brown and UConn were also interested in Domingos, who committed to Maryland a couple of years back.
“She has to be the most dominant forward in the state,” Mones said.