NEWTOWN — The white-and-blue roadblock to the Newtown girls soccer team’s quest for a first SWC title has been a thorn in recent seasons, including a year ago when Immaculate denied the Mustangs the championship with a win in the final.
The Nighthawks earned a measure of revenge and cemented their status as title contenders once again with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over their rivals Tuesday night. Sydney Howard scored the winner with just 3:40 left, poking home a shot after Karsen Pirone fired in a free kick.
The playoff atmosphere appropriately characterized the matchup that went right to the wire.
“We have a lot of history with them, especially in SWCs, which we lost,” said Nighthawks senior Emma Curtis. “We know if we start the first half of our next game against them like we played the second half (tonight), we can do even better.”
Curtis tied the game at 1-1 with 27 minutes left as she glanced a header that deflected off an Immaculate defender and into the net. Newtown (7-1-2) began gaining control in final 40 minutes, applying pressure that led to a series of free kicks that turned the game on its head.
“We talked about at halftime how we were playing scared and reacting to what they were doing instead of playing the Newtown way,” Newtown coach Marc Kenney said. “In the second half we took the initiative, certainly won the 50-50 balls and played harder.”
Hailey Dubbioso gave the Mustangs (10-2-1) a 1-0 led 10 minutes into the game when she scored in very similar fashion to Howard’s winner. All three goals came from set pieces, as chances to score from open play were few and far between.
Both teams have jumped out to excellent starts to remain near the top of the SWC and respective state standings. The Nighthawks — who notched recent wins over ND-Fairfield and Weston — finished their run against title contenders and will have six games before the postseason begins.
“We have really good chemistry this year,” Curtis said. “All the coaches are focusing on working on strengths and making sure we’re playing together and not individually because that doesn’t work.”
The Mustangs have improved throughout the season while fielding five freshmen, coach Nelson Mingachos said. That will be put to the test this week as games against Weston and ND-Fairfield follow.
“For us to compete just alone what we did today; I think the goal is to always be better at the end of the season,” Mingachos said. “And I think we’re getting there. Are we there yet? No. We have the gauntlet this week.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Emma Curtis, Newtown: The forward’s runs created havoc in the second half; created several chances to add to her goal tally.
“The kids played hard and worked hard,” Mingachos said. “I thought we played well in the first half; I thought in the second half we probably were trying not to lose the game. This type of game at their place under the lights; they probably panicked a bit, but they worked hard.”
NEWTOWN 2, IMMACULATE 1
IMMACULATE1 0 — 1
NEWTOWN0 2 — 0
Goals: I—Hailey Dubbioso; N—Emma Curtis, Sydney Howard. Assists: I—Kayla Migachos; N—Hannah Daly, Karsen Pirone. Goalies: Records: Newtown 7-1-2, Immaculate 10-2-1.