BURLINGTON >> Nonnewaug’s young, talented girls soccer team (12-3) hung with Lewis Mills (15-0) for the first half Friday night at Burlington’s Nassahegan Field.
Then the Spartans rolled through four second-half goals for a 6-1 win and the Berkshire League title over the second-place Chiefs.
“We got a little shell-shocked,” said Nonnewaug coach Nick Sheikh. “We snapped into it; then we’d disappear for a while. We’re very young, so it’s good for the girls to see a team like this before the state tournament begins.”
“We knock on the door and we knock on the door. We just come at you in waves. After a while, it becomes a mental thing as well as physical,” said Mills coach Jason Stock.
Senior Bailey Pace had three of the Spartans’ six goals Friday. Mills has a team full of scorers.
“We’ve had 15-20 goal scorers this year,” said Stock. “It speaks to our depth and the quality of our players.”
“Our strength is our attitude,” said Pace. “We’ve been playing together since grade school.”
The Spartans have out-scored their opponents 103-6 this year, including a 6-0 win at Nonnewaug early this month.
The Chiefs set out to make a game of it this time, though they had to be reminded of Mills’ prowess early in the game.
Two minutes later, Pace broke away from the pack all the way up the middle for a point-blank shot at the net, 1-0.
“It shouldn’t take a goal for us to realize we have to be more physical,” Sheikh told his bench. “That’s what happened last time. From the get-go, they were more physical.”
The reminder worked.
The Chiefs survived two corners in a row; Pace almost broke loose again; and Nonnewaug senior goalkeeper Megan Mitchell (12 saves) made the first of a string of spectacular saves to keep the Chiefs in the game.
With two more saves in the 28th and 33rd minutes, it looked like Mitchell and her defense might keep the first half down to a single Mills goal.
“(Mitchell) is as first-team as they come,” said Coach Sheikh. “She’s played injured for the last two years and you’d never know it. She’s one of the best I’ve had as a player and an athlete.”
Four minutes from the half, Mills sophomore Alessandra Santacroce passed to Julia Pearson on the right side. Pearson, a senior, made it 2-0, Mills.
Seconds later, Nonnewaug freshman Christina Sordi took the ball straight to Mills’ net, bringing the Nonnewaug hope back, 2-1.
This year, a good half against Mills is great.
Nonnewaug got off just one more shot in the game.
The sound of Spartans knocking on the door was deafening.
“We have so many players who can interlock,” said Stock, in his second year with the Spartans. “It’s a style they’ve adapted to beautifully.”
In the second half’s 10th minute, Mackenzie Bergstrom took a pass from Pace 10 yards out. Her shot climbed over a defender into the net.
Leading 3-1, Mills footwork artistry took over.
Midway through the period, senior Mallory Buys got a step, working her way in from the right side.
Two minutes later, Pace, working on her fourth hat trick of the year, did the same thing, 5-1.
With six minutes left, Pace gunned in the game’s final goal 15 yards out on the left wing.
Mills reached the Class M semifinals last year. Does their league dominance raise a preparation problem this year?
“It’s always a concern, though these girls won’t be surprised with tournament-class competition,” said Stock. “Some of them played in the finals their freshman year.”
“We’re definitely preparing for states,” grinned Pace.
Lewis Mills 6, Nonnewaug 1
At Nassahegan Field, Burlington
Nonnewaug 1 0—1
Lewis Mills 2 4—6
Goals: N—Christina Sordi. LM—Bailey Pace 3; Julia Pearson; Mackenzie Bergsrom; Mallory Buys. Assists: LM—Alessandra Santacroce; Pace. Shots: 22-2 Lewis Mills. Saves: N—Megan Mitchell. LM—Taylor Anderson.
Records: Nonnewaug 12-3; Lewis Mills 15-0.
Reach Peter Wallace in the office at 860-489-3121 ext.330