WEST HAVEN — Notre Dame-West Haven coach Chris Ciuca has seen his team go through so many emotional swings in a few short weeks. From finally starting the season to a pair of bouts with quarantined players, Ciuca has waited for his squad to feel like a complete team.
While the season may be coming to a close, Ciuca may be seeing what he has longed for.
In what may have been the team’s best played contest of the year, the Green Knights topped Amity 2-1 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division C contest at Veterans Field in West Haven Tuesday evening.
“We have been through so much,” Ciuca said. “We have been through so much, especially with quarantined players. We have been hit twice, with 16, then eight. It has been tough. This season has been one of a kind, but we have managed to pull it out.”
Junior Christian Alino continually showed his offensive prowess with a pair of goals and several clear scoring opportunities. Alino worked his magic to find the back of the net in each half, with his second goal giving the Green Knights a 2-0 lead with 17 minutes to go in the game.
“He is just a special player,” Ciuca said of Alino. “He helps what we do a lot. He is just an amazing offensive player. He played a really good game.”
For Amity, the game was a struggle from the start as the Spartans could not string together passes, and played more of an individual contest throughout.
Amity (5-5) did not generate many scoring opportunities, particularly in the second half where the Spartans had less than a handful of shots.
“We could not connect on our passes,” Amity coach Michael Marchitto said after his team dropped its second straight and third in last four games. “We could not get that final pass. It was not there. We would build up, but we just could not get to it.”
The contest was a far cry from the initial meeting between the two teams this season when nine goals were scored and Amity won 5-4.
The second time around saw Notre Dame take over in the second half, including 10 shots. Only Notre Dame’s inability to finish quality scoring opportunities kept the Green Knights from running away.
The Green Knights had a pair of quality scoring opportunities to start the second half as Jamie Fonseca sailed a shot over the net three minutes in, and Nicholas Vitti did the same from 15 yards out three minutes later.
“You look at the score and think it was a very close game,” Ciuca said. “We had a lot of chances. We just could not finish them. We were able to shut them down.”
Notre Dame finally capitalized in the second half when Amity goalkeeper Juan Rodriguez made the initial save on freshman Giancarlo Esquivel, but the rebound went right to Alino, who buried his second of the contest with 11 minutes gone by in the second half for a 2-0 lead.
“I am so proud of them,” Ciuca said. “We worked hard. It is a well-deserved win.”
Notre Dame goalkeeper Zach Benson kept the momentum on the side of the Green Knights when he robbed Amity’s Arian Bobi from 15 yards out with a diving save 12 minutes after Alino’s tally.
That save by Benson would prove to be big as Bobi scored to the lower let corner off an assist from Lorenzo Quintana eight minutes later to get Amity within 2-1.
“You look at their goals and they were mistakes by us,” Marchitto said. “The first goal was a player out of position, and the second was a misplay at midfield. We forced it a lot. We played like 11 individuals on the field.”
The Spartans had one final golden opportunity to even the contest in the final two minutes, but Benson punched away a free kick by Diogo Artaza from 27 yards out.
Despite 11 combined shots in the opening half, only Alino was able to find the back of the net when he beat Rodriguez in the final two minutes of the half with a laser to the lower right corner from 25 yards out.
Bobi had Amity’s best scoring opportunities of the first half when he was denied from 15 yards out three minutes in, was stopped by Benson nine minutes later, and hit the post 18 minutes in from a sharp angle.
Benson finished with five saves in the win. Rodriguez had eight saves for Amity.