MONROE — The first 15 minutes of Tuesday’s SWC semifinal were demoralizing enough for the Masuk High School girls soccer team. And then somehow it got worse.
Masuk had four great chances to score in the opening 15 minutes but came away empty against Pomperaug’s terrific goalkeeper, Caitlin Murphy.
And then Pomeraug scored in the 17th minute. And then four minutes later scored again. So, Masuk was now down two goals against a team that had allowed two goals in the last 800 minutes (10 games).
“That second goal I think took the life out of them,” Pomperaug coach Jillian Cipriano said after her team’s 3-0 win earned them a berth in Thursday’s SWC final against Newtown. “Anything can happen at 1-0 but once we made it 2-0, with our goalie and defense, it was a game changer.”
After surviving those first 15 minutes, Masuk was awarded a free kick from 25 yards out and Emily Belval placed a perfect kick just above the outstretched hands of Masuk goalie Madison Kobza for a 1-0 lead.
Then four minutes later Olivia Farina raced down the right side, and from a difficult angle was able to get the ball around Kobza (eight saves), who had come far out of the goal to cut down the angle, to make it 2-0. With Tuesday’s win, Pomperaug is now 10-0-1 in its last 11 games, outscoring opponents 31-2 having allowed 11 goals all season in 18 games.
“Maybe it’s 3-3 if we can put those shots in,” Masuk coach Jason Golesky said of his team’s early aggressiveness. “But it was not our night. The difference was we didn’t finish and they did. That second goal was big because we knew coming in how good their keeper was.”
“I’m not going to lie,” added Murphy, who finished with 12 saves for her sixth straight shutout, “that second goal really helped.”
Pomperaug (11-3-4), the No. 6 seed who defeated Notre Dame 1-0 in Friday’s quarterfinals, was able to withstand Masuk’s early offensive barrage, but was also able to bottle up Masuk star junior Kacey Lawrence. Lawrence, who will play at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2020, was double-covered all game and was not much of a factor.
“If we could have put one of those in it early in the game it would’ve made a huge difference,” Lawrence said. “It was a very frustrating night.”
Before the first half ended Masuk (13-4-1), which was the No. 2 seed, found itself in a three-goal hole. Pomperaug’s Siobban Lounsbury got free for a boot from 20 yards out and just like Belval’s kick, managed to get it just under the crossbar and above Kobza’s hands for a 3-0 lead.
Masuk, which knocked off Brookfield 2-0 in Friday’s quarterfinal, never stopped playing hard, despite trailing by three against one of the best defensive teams in the state. Murphy had to make seven more saves in the second half, several with a high degree of difficulty.
“I don’t like to think about it,” Murphy said, referring to her status as a top goalie. “It’s not me, it’s my teammates in front of me.”
POMPERAUG 3, MASUK 0
POMPERAUG 3 0 — 3
MASUK 0 0 — 0
Goals: P — Emily, Belval, Olivia Farina, Siobban Lounsbury. Goalie saves: P — Caitlin Murphy 12, M — Madison Kobza 8.
Records: P 11-3-4, M 13-4-1.