NEWTOWN — Newtown girls soccer coach Marc Kenney was forced to reshuffle his deck after losing 10 seniors and six starters from last year’s team.
Fortunately for Kenny and the Nighthawks, he had the ace of spades up his sleeves in the form of All-State midfielder Sarah Houle.
Houle has helped orchestrate an attack that has scored 31 goals while yielding just four, leading Newtown to a 7-0-0 start. The goal scoring has come from a variety of sources; six different players have scored at least two goals.
“I think it’s because we don’t have one way of scoring goals,” said Houle, who has two goals and six assists so far. “Whether it goes out wide, up front or through me and Grace (Corocan), we’re never predictable in the offense half. We have the ability to do different things and that’s why a lot of people are scoring goals.”
Houle won the State Open golf championship last June, but returned to the pitch one final time to try to deliver her squad a championship. Houle played soccer for both school and club prior to focusing on her golf career that will likely continue in college.
“Sarah tries to be the best at everything she does; soccer player, golf game, academics,” Kenney said. “She’s a kid who is going to be successful no matter where the future takes her; maybe it’s a golf course, maybe it’s an office. No matter what it’s going to be, there are going to be a lot of birdies along the way.”
Playing next to Houle is fellow captain Corocan, who has scored five goals this season. Wingers Karsen Pirone — just a sophomore with bounds of potential — and Sydney Howard have combined for six goals and five assists to form a difficult midfield to deal with, despite the shuffle in personnel.
“This season especially, we are relying on team chemistry,” Houle said. Since we don’t know ourselves quite as well as soccer players, we know each other as people and how each person works, and how to get them to play at their highest level.”
A pair of juniors lead the front line for the Nighthawks, both of whom have poured in the goals. Emma Curtis (eight goals, four assists) and Carly Swierbut (six goals, two) have formed a dynamic partnership to blitz teams early and often with goals.
“We’ve been able to score goals, and we’re fortunate with the chances we’ve had, we’ve been able to put them away,” Kenney said. “I think that takes a lot of pressure off a young team. When you’re scoring early it puts the other team on their heels.”
The monkey on the back of the Nighthawks remains, though. Newtown hasn’t won a state playoff game since topping Glastonbury to win the 2012 Class LL title. All four first-round losses since have been in overtime or on penalty kicks.
Newtown has somehow never won an SWC championship. Last season the Nighthawks — despite posting a 11-2-3 record in the regular season, including an 8-0-1 start — were ousted in the first round of both tournaments.
“We always talk about the first 16 games merely give us an opportunity to play in the SWC and state tournament,” Kenney said. “Believe me, it’s not lost on them we haven’t fared well in the SWC and state tournament. A good start is only as good as your finish; that’s how we’re framing it.”
“This is definitely one of the hardest programs to be a part of in the school,” Houle said. “Our coach demands a lot of us, and to get a championship — or some sort of success in the postseason — would mean a great deal to us.”