HAMDEN >> With both teams trying to find their way, the rivalry contest between Hamden and Sacred Heart Academy could not have come at a better time. For the Pacers, the intensity of the contest was just what they needed.
Using a goal by Kaleigh Putnam in the first five minutes of the game, Sacred Heart defeated the Green Dragons 2-0 at Sacred Heart Friday afternoon. With the win, the Pacers improved to 2-1-1, while the Green Dragons fell to 1-4.
“In a cross-town rivalry, the first goal is very important,” Sacred Heart coach George Bedocs said. “We were lucky Kaleigh put it in for us.
“You can never underestimate your opponent in this game. We were lucky to come away with a win today. We played an ugly game.”
After Putnam was stopped on a cross by Hamden goalkeeper Gabriella Panayotakis just 20 seconds into the game, she was not to be denied less than five minutes later. Intercepting a pass, Putnam came in and roofed a shot past Panayotakis 4 minutes, 56 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 lead.
“The first goal is pretty important,” Putnam said. “We had the lead at the half and that gave us confidence. It is a rivalry game. No matter when we play them, it is going to be a tough game.”
The Green Dragons, who have not scored on the road in four contests this year, had their opportunities in the first half. Jadyn Reilly sent a pass to Deja Cohen whose shot was stopped by Sacred Heart’s Alexa Fiala in goal. Amelia Mathews’ rebound was also denied by Fiala to keep the Pacers on top 14:30 into the contest.
Hamden then had a golden opportunity to knot the game on a corner by Sarah Vita, but the shot in front was denied, keeping the Pacers on top 1-0.
“All season, it has been like that,” Hamden coach Gary Collins said. “We have not played bad at all. We have played well enough to win the games. We need to handle the pressure a little bit better. At 2-0, we are still in the game. We have to make better decisions with the ball.”
With Hamden failing to capitalize on its opportunities, Sacred Heart took a 2-0 lead with 18:38 remaining in the opening half. Deanna Sintay crossed in front of Panayotakis and ripped a shot to the lower right corner.
The Pacers continued the pressure in the first half, taking 11 shots. Mary Verneris ripped a shot wide from 20 yards out with 15:20 remaining in the opening half, and had her sliding shot denied by Panayotakis with 13:40 remaining.
Panayotakis then made a diving save off a shot from Mackenzie Walsh after a nice set up from Verneris with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.
“We are on our way,” Bedocs said. “We had a tough match with Cheshire. Hand we outshot, but it was 0-0. It is nice to win two in a row. The SCC is never easy.”
The Pacers played a defensive game in the second half, keeping Hamden to the outside. Hamden’s Vita shot wide from 30 yards out 10:10 in the second half and Reilly’s laser from 30 yards out was easily turned aside by Fiala with 21:38 remaining.
“She is a sophomore who is coming into her own,” Bedocs said of Fiala. “She is gaining confidence every game. She is learning.”
Fiala finished with nine saves in the win, while Panayotakis made 17 saves in the loss for Hamden.
“Our defense is competing,” Collins said. “Offensively, we need to take more risks going forward. The goals are there for us. The goals we have allowed have been because of our mistakes.”
The Pacers held a 19-9 shot advantage in the contest.