MIDDLETOWN >> All it took was a minute.
For 79 minutes of Wednesday night’s Central Connecticut Conference girls championship game at Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown outscored favored Northwest Catholic by a goal. But with 2:13 left in the first half, the Indians’ Michelle Medina scored, and 58 seconds later, Northwest’s Alicia Susi scored off a pass from Madison Boroweic and that was enough as Northwest came from behind to defeat the Blue Dragons 2-1 and win the first-ever CCC soccer championship.
“Overall, I thought we played well,” said Middletown coach Nick Libera. “Late in the first half we got spread out, we had breakdowns and they got those two goals. We had chances to score and I thought we were in it until the end.”
No. 4 Middletown, which will play in the Class L tournament starting next week, got to the title game by beating Hall of West Hartford, 3-2, and No. 1 ranked Glastonbury 1-0. Those two schools and Northwest are all in Class LL
“I think playing in this tournament will help us tremendously,” said Libera. “There’s a lot of frustration among the girls tonight as winning the CCC was a goal, but I see it as a bonus.”
The Blue Dragons (15-4) took a 1-0 lead when Lizzie Smith scored as she lofted a shot into the net past keeper Becca Molin (four saves) with 24 minutes, 29 seconds showing on the clock. That goal stood up until the back-to-back goals at the end of the half by Northwest.
“We’ve been down a few times this year,” said Northwest coach Todd Sadler. “But the goal came so early it was crazy to panic. Middletown deserved that goal. But I thought my team showed a lot of character to get those two goals late in the half. I had a different speech prepared if we hadn’t scored.
“But at the half I said that we were up 2-1 and we hadn’t played particularly well. It wasn’t our best game, but that’s a credit to Middletown. We were a little better in the second half, but Middletown hung around. If we had been able to get a third goal, then it might have been easy, but it’s tough to play against Middletown because they are so fast and athletic.”
Northwest ratcheted up its defense in the second half, holding Middletown to just one shot, while taking eight themselves. In the first half the Blue Dragons had five shots to Northwest’s seven and for stretches of the first half, Middletown dominated play.
Middletown’s one shot in the second half came from Sam Fletcher and it crossed the goal mouth, just missing the far post with 13:15 to play.
The Medina sisters – Michelle and Nikki – make Northwest go. Libera knew all about that.
“Our game plan coming in was to contain No. 17 [Nikki Medina] and I think we did a pretty good job of that,” said Libera. “If you leave her wide open, she will pick you apart.”
While Libera thought the tournament served as great preparation for the state tournament, he recognized a downside.
“We had injuries,” Libera said. “Mikaela Coady [leading scorer] sprained her ankle against Glastonbury and she reinjured that tonight. So we don’t know about her for next week.”
Middletown keeper Desiree Hinton had seven saves, none better than the brilliant diving stop she made on a point-blank shot just eight minutes into the match. Hinton had three solid saves in the second half.
Molin made a very good save off of a shot by Rajeen Mayo with 14 minutes left in the first half. Middletown had another great chance with 3:45 left in the first half, but Nikki Medina kicked it out of a scrum in front of the net to prevent a goal.
No. 2 Northwest (15-1-3) beat Tolland, 2-0, and RHAM, 3-0, to get to the championship game. The Indians have won the Class M title the last two years running and until they lost to Glastonbury during the regular season, had a 48-game [44-0-4] unbeaten streak.
Is Northwest the better team?
Libera thought for a minute and said, “We were right with them until the end.”