FAIRFIELD — If you thought that Notre Dame-Fairfield girls soccer coach Wayne Mones had a rebuilding task ahead of him after losing four major starters to college programs, Newtown coach Marc Kenney had it just as bad.
Kenney lost 10 seniors, including six starters, from last year’s team, but over the course of the opening three games of the season the Nighthawks appear to be reloading, not rebuilding, especially after Monday’s 3-1 win over the Lancers Monday at the Sacred Heart University field.
“The team looks different,” Kenney said. “We approached the preseason differently and we just have to take some chances and put some kids out there and let them learn.”
So far, so good. Newtown had already defeated Kolbe, 8-0, and Watertown, 5-3, before getting past the Lancers. And while Karsen Pirone scored two goals against Notre Dame, other Nighthawks have also stepped up early on, including Emma Curtis, who had three goals, and Grace Corcoran, who added two against Watertown.
“I feel like we’re off to a good start and with all the new players that we have, I was hoping that we could gel quickly, especially when you’re replacing half your roster,” Kenney said.
Notre Dame-Fairfield, meanwhile, is trying to replace four elite college players, including Samantha LaValle, who scored 95 goals in leading the Lancers to back- to-back CIAC co-championships.
“With a young team, (mistakes) are going to happen,” Mones said. “When you’re missing four college players from last year, we have to be realistic and hope for the best.”
Newtown, which controlled play for much of the first half, needed just nine minutes to get on the board as Carly Swierbut controlled the ball after a Lancers’ defensive breakdown on the left wing and beat ND goalkeeper Samantha Camacho into the lover right corner for a 1-0 advantage.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as Pirone, sprinting down the right side, took a pass from Curtis and beat Camacho with a ball into the upper left corner.
Pirone then made it 3-0, taking a perfect cross from Swierbut and beating Camacho.
“I saw a little pocket where I was trying to get it into. I could see that the goalie was a little bit out of position so I tried to get it into the upper left corner and I did,” Pirone said about her first goal. “That (second one) was a great run by Emma. She played a prefect ball across to me and I was able to finish it.”
What makes Pirone’s game even more special is that she’s playing with an injured disc in her back.
“One of the discs collapsed in my back and it’s pinching a nerve, so I was out for the first two games,” she said. “It’s going to hurt at times, but I would do anything for this team, so I’m just going to play.”
“Listen, Emma Curtis and Carly Swierbut and Karsen Pirone are really, really good,” Kenney said. “Those kids are going to score a boatload of goals for us and when they get set up by players like Sarah Houle, who was all-state last season, we’re going to score a lot of goals.”
The Lancers, to their credit, kept fighting and with just over a minute left finally scored when Carly Zajac took a centering pass from Toni Domingos and beat Nighthawks keeper Janyce Toth.
“We won the second half,” Mones said. “I thought we fought and stayed in the game. This has happened the first two games, we’re down before we know it and we play a little out of control and we’re not clearing balls out and we’re making mistakes and whatever and then we settle down and we play better.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Newtown’s Karsen Pirone. Considering she’s playing with a collapsed disc and a pinched nerve in her back, scoring two goals against the two-time co-state champions was most impressive.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Notre Dame freshman forward Toni Domingos. She scored both ND goals in a 2-2 tie with Masuk in the opener and added an assist against Newtown. Reportedly, she has already made a verbal commitment to UConn.
“I was really, really impressed with how we reacted offensively. I think we’re going to score a lot of goals this year. We have a lot of new kids in new spots, so the goal scoring certainly helps. It allows us to do some stuff and move some people around and take some chances that we normally wouldn’t take.” — Newtown coach Marc Kenney
NEWTOWN 3, NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 1
NEWTOWN 3 0—3
ND-FAIRFIELD 0 1—1
Records: Newtown (3-0); ND-Fairfield (0-1-1)
Goals: N — Carly Swierbut, Karsen Pirone (2); ND-F: Carly Zajac; Assists: N — Swierbut, Emma Curtis; ND-F: Toni Domingos
Shots: N — 13; ND-F: 4; Saves: N — Julianna Stavola, Janyce Toth (three); ND-F: Samantha Camacho; Tia Pascarelli (10)