HIGGANUM >> After topping defending SLC champion Portland two days before, Haddam-Killingworth girls soccer coach Eric Grant was wary of a letdown against rival Morgan.
Grant’s fears were realized when the Huskies grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the second half and only a few minutes after Grant had told the Cougars to “finish strong.”
“That’s kind of our motto,” said Grant, now in his 10th season.
Well, the Cougars finished with a flourish, rallying past Morgan, 4-2, Thursday afternoon at H-K.
The Cougars (5-2-2) showcased their speed up front and got four unanswered goals from Angie Cretella, Kali DeNisi, Jenny Martin and Molly Madore.
“The second half we played well,” Grant added. “We’ve got quick players but if they’re not executing correctly their speed is not working. They were all bunching together in the first half and I said, ‘Why are you guys so tight? You can’t use your speed if you’re on top of each other.'”
After a scoreless first half, Morgan, which had been shut out by Portland and Old Lyme in their two previous games, tallied two quick goals. Kristen Joyce knocked in a header after a terrific corner kick by Savannah Skidmore, and Courtney Carroll buried a shot past H-K freshman keeper Tevi Ferguson off a nice crossing pass from Josie Sullivan.
But Cretella’s unassisted goal shortly after made it 2-1 and the Cougars put the pressure on the rest of the way.
“It’s a tough thing when you have a 2-0 lead and then you give up that one and the momentum has totally shifted,” said Morgan coach Megan Kilbride. “The girls fought hard. Our defense has been solid pretty much the entire season and they needed a little support coming in today so I was real happy we were able to get two.”
H-K tied it in the 61st minute when Madore slipped a beautiful 2-on-1 pass to DeNisi, who easily out the ball into an open net.
“That looked like the drills we work on,” said Grant. “The girls were really happy with themselves.”
The speedy Martin made a terrific move up the left side after a pass from Jackie Stephens and Martin deposited a shot to the far corner to make it 3-2 in the 68th minute.
The Huskies almost tied it on another corner kick from Skidmore but Ferguson, whose sister, Teagan, was an all-state goalkeeper for the Cougars, corralled the ball as host of players swarmed at the net. Ferguson finished with eight saves.
“She’s saved us so many times,” said Grant.
Martin then set up Madore for an insurance goal with less than a minute to play.
Goalkeeper Sarah Cockley made three saves for Morgan (3-5-1).
“I still have a very young group,” Kilbride said. “They’ve got the talent. They just have to get the experience in knowing how to put a game away, a game like today, to kind of get us on a roll.”
H-K has won four of their last five games.
“We’re finally getting healthy,” said Grant. “We had some injuries earlier in the season and everyone is in their positions now, except for starter Halie Serbent, who will be back next week.”