NAUGATUCK — Two corner kicks and a breakaway added up to a 3-1 Class S semifinal win for No. 3 Holy Cross against No. 7 Litchfield Wednesday night at Naugatuck High School.
Crusader sophomore Devon Bushka put two of her first-half corners on the money for an assist on freshman Juliana Dane’s first goal of the game, curled in another one and passed upfield for Sophia Vescera’s breakaway froster, all in the first half.
NVL champion Holy Cross lost a Class S overtime final to Old Lyme two years ago. Now they get a second chance against the four-time defending champions, Saturday at New Britain’s Veterans Stadium at 10 a.m.
This will be Holy Cross’ fifth appearance in a state soccer final, but the Crusaders — which won the NVL title this season — have never won a state championship.
“We wanted to be the number one seed in the NVL Tournament and now we want to get the monkey off our back in the state finals,” Holy Cross coach Phil Mongelluzzo said.
“We were nervous about their midfield speed and (Litchfield’s Christina Orsini. We made some adjustments at midfield and that’s when we got our goals.”
Two minutes into the game, Litchfield girls career scoring leader Christina Orsini was a collision short of posting the game’s first score as she and Crusader goalkeeper Tori Schaffner raced for a breakaway ball 20 yards out from the goal.
The collision left Orsini down with the wind knocked out of her. Six minutes later, teammate Allie Davenport had the game’s first shot.
By the 11th minute, Mongelluzzo was hollering to his team, “You’re being outworked, ladies.”
The space disappeared. Bushka launched her first corner kick a minute later. The ball sailed into the waiting crowd in front of the net. Dane bodied it in from three yards out.
Down 1-0, Litchfield keeper Molly Lennon raced out for the ball, then launched a huge punt downfield, tailor-made for Cross’ concerns about the Cowgirl speed. Davenport sent a through ball forward to Orsini, breaking through the last defender to drill a shot into the net for a 1-1 tie.
“We made some early defensive mistakes. Then those two corner kicks put us on our heels,” Litchfield coach Mike Wilson said. “Otherwise, I thought we kept up with them and played very well.”
But two minutes later, Bushka set up for another corner kick. This one curled just inside the bottom of the near post for another Crusader goal.
From there, Holy Cross had the rest of the first-half shots including the clincher, seven minutes before the half.
Replaying Orsini’s earlier goal for Litchfield, midfielder Bushka sent a pass ahead to Vescera, sidestepping the last Cowgirl defender for a clear shot to the net.
The 3-1 score held for another 40 minutes, but only thanks to terrific saves on both sides.
Litchfield defender Roxanne Snowden raced in to save a shot rolling past Lennon in the ninth minute. Litchfield threatened hard in the 13th minute off another great punt by Lennon. A Crusader shot to an open net was wide left 22 minutes in. Vescera pounded a shot off Lennon on the ground in the 26th. Schaffner picked the ball out of a scrum in front of her net in the 31st.