SHELTON — The Shelton High girls soccer team graduated 14 seniors, but goalkeeper Courtney Litts didn’t come into this season thinking it would be a rebuilding year.
It’s turned out to be just the opposite.
The Gaels defeated Lauralton Hall 2-0 at Finn Stadium on Wednesday to keep pace in the hunt for the top seed in the SCC tournament.
“We did not want this to be a rebuilding year,” Litts said. “We wanted this to be a going-out-with-a-bang for us seniors.”
Haley Oko sparked the Gaels to their fourth win in the last five matches, coming off the bench to score in the 26th minute. Oko outraced a defender and fired a shot past Lauralton goalkeeper Julia Rush from straight on to make it 1-0.
“She’s been coming off our bench as a sophomore. It was really interesting,” Shelton coach Marvin Miller said, “because we had a nice conversation last night about quality of minutes as opposed to quantity of minutes. She could go down to JV and dominate a lot down there with more playing time, but she’s glad to be here.”
Junior Maggie Howard doubled the lead with a goal in the 62nd minute, helping Shelton improve to 10-2-2 with two matches remaining in the regular season. The win also kept the Gaels atop the Oronoque Division.
“We feel pretty good. We think we have a team that can contest for the SCC championship,” Miller said. “We’ve just got to get by our friends over there in Woodbridge, at Amity. We think any road through the SCC has to play through them.”
Lauralton has already qualified for the Class L tournament, but its road to the conference playoffs was made that by much tougher by the Gaels’ second win over the Crusaders (8-3-3) this season.
“They’re a good team,” Crusaders coach Steve Waizenegger said. “We had a hard time with them at home (in a 3-1 loss on Sept. 22). They don’t quit. They’re organized. … We didn’t play well tonight.”
The Crusaders didn’t gain much traction against Shelton’s defense, registering only four shots. Litts and Rush finished with four saves apiece.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Haley Oko, Shelton, F: The sophomore’s goal in the 26th minute stood as the eventual game-winner for the Gaels.
SINGLING OUT MONAHAN
The Gaels focused most of their attention on shutting down senior Caroline Monahan, who was held in check the entire match. Their strategy, Miller said, was to deny service to her and to limit the space from which she had to work. “Monahan, she factors into our decisions when we play these guys,” Miller added. “I still think we have one of the best set of defensive backs in the league this year. … She’s a fine player, so in those two or three moments when she came up big, we had to have a defender come up big.”
“They beat us in every facet of the game, and it’s the proper score.” — Lauralton coach Steve Waizenegger on his team’s performance
SHELTON 2, LAURALTON HALL 0
LAURALTON HALL 0 0 — 0
SHELTON 1 1 — 2
Records: Lauralton Hall 8-3-3; Shelton 10-2-2. Scoring: S — Haley Oko 1g, Maggie Howard 1g, Leya Vohra 1a. Goalies: LH — Julia Rush (4 saves); S — Courtney Litts (4). Shots: LH — 4; S — 8.