NEW MILFORD — On Saturday, while New Milford girls soccer coach Greg Marsan watched his team during pregame warmups for its match with Newtown for the SWC North title, he said getting through a season impacted by COVID-19 had its challenges.
“No one on team our had COVID, but we lost two weeks of practice early in the season due to a quarantine,” Marsan said. “When you lose time like that it hurts the development of the younger players and it’s hard to catch up, especially for those playing varsity for the first time. And you had other teams impacted like Immaculate (dropped out of the SWC tournament due to COVID) and Pomperaug (forced to have its JV team replace the quarantined varsity team in the tournament).
“Honestly, with the impact of the pandemic I didn’t think we would get here, to this point where we would be able to play in the tournament. Getting to this championship game was a testament of the focus and hard work of everyone on our team and in the league. Just playing was an accomplishment and to win a title would be icing on the cake.”
When the final second ticked off the scoreboard clock, Marsan got that icing on the cake.
Sophomore Ruby McSherry scored two goals, the Green Wave had a strong transition game and freshman Ileana Feliz had 10 saves to lead No. 3 New Milford to a 2-0 win over No. 4 Newtown for the SWC North championship. Julia Cascone, Adriana Alfano and Shannon Anderson were among the Green Wave players showcasing the team’s speed and controlling the midfield.
“We didn’t have our A game today, but we made up for it in other areas,” Marsan said. “They had fun out there and had to beat a quality team for this title. We’ve won other titles, but with the pandemic this was a different kind of season and the title means a little more.
“We had a great group of girls who worked hard to develop a special chemistry.”
The first 20 minutes of the game the Green Wave peppered Newtown freshman goalie Makenzie Del Pozo with a half dozen shots. The shots kept coming and a defensive letdown by the Nighthawks allowed New Milford to get the first goal.
Alfano took a shot about 10 yards out near the right post. Del Pozo made the save but the ball rebounded to McSherry who one-timed a shot for the 1-0 lead at 17:02.
The Nighthawks stepped up their own pressure after the goal and produced some quality shots. But once again McSherry put herself in the right place at the right time to add an insurance goal in the second half off a right corner kick.
As the ball came down, it bounced off the feet of some players. But the ball got loose and McSherry tapped it in for a 2-0 lead with 16:47 left in the game.
“I never expected to be in this position, and at times I didn’t know if we would have a season or a postseason with the pandemic,” McSherry said. “When we got to this point, I knew we could win this title and I didn’t want to let the team down. I had those two opportunities and I was determined to score.”
Cascone said the Green Wave had a specific game plan.
“In this game we had to go to every 50-50 ball, win our personal battles and outplay their defenders,” Cascone said. “We wanted to be focused and aggressive and in the end I think we wanted it more.”
One of the best chances Newtown had to score came at 27:52. Juliana Stavola brought the ball down the right wing and took a shot from about 5 yards in front of Feliz near the right post. Feliz dropped to her knees and grabbed the low shot for the save.
“New Milford was the better team today and their speed was hard to match up to,” Newtown coach Marc Kenney said. “We had our opportunities but we couldn’t finish. Coming into the season I had to replace eight starters, so we were young. I love these kids and how hard they worked and persevered through this pandemic. The most important thing is we were able to play, have fun and get this season completed.”
New Milford 2, Newtown 0
(at New Milford)
Newtown0 0 —0
New Milford1 1 —2
Scoring: NM—Ruby McSherry (Adriana Alfano) 17:02; NM—Ruby McSherry 63:13. Shots on Goal: Newtown 10, New Milford 18. Saves: Newtown—Makenzie Del Pozo 16; New Milford—Ileana Feliz 10. Records: Newtown 5-5-5; New Milford 8-2-4.