MILFORD — For 60 minutes, the Foran defense had stifled Shelton in what was a classic defensive battle. The Gaels then opened the floodgates.
Scoring three times in a span of 3 minutes, 38 seconds, the Shelton girls soccer team defeated Foran 3-1 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division C contest on Senior Night at Foran High Thursday evening.
“We played well in the first half,” Shelton coach Marvin Miller said. “We just didn’t play as crisp as we needed to. Our passes were way too long and they were able to pick them off. We had our chances early and I thought we had the run of play. Once the second half started, we responded.”
Trailing by a goal and putting on more pressure, Shelton finally broke the Foran defense with 17:40 to go.
Left alone, Shelton sophomore Kayleigh Bartlett hit a shot just over the arms of Foran goalkeeper Hanna Della Bitta-Falkowski to even the game at 1-1.
Just 2:13 later, Shelton took the lead for good. Off a scramble in front and with Foran unable to clear the area, Shelton’s Jaylee Zwaan was able to knock in the loose ball off an assist from Elizabeth Porto for a 2-1 lead.
“We got rattled a little bit and we were not able to bounce back,” Foran coach Casey Blake said after her team fell to 5-4-1. “They got that quick goal and the rest was history. But, this is why I love coaching this team. We played hard and kept working. We just needed to settle down at that point. We were able to push forward.”
The Gaels (8-1-1) were not done. Noelle Garretson, who had scored five goals in a win over Law and was injured earlier in the second half, calmly ripped a shot past Della Bitta-Falkowski from in front with 14:02 remaining for a 3-1 advantage.
“It was very stressful at first, knowing we needed one more goal,” Bartlett said. “I just got the ball and ripped it. It was enough to get by her.”
“Sometimes things are not clicking and you need to adapt quicker,” Zwaan said. “We needed that extra push.”
The first half was a defensive clinic as the two teams combined for just nine shots and four total saves. While the Gaels had the best of the scoring opportunities early, it was the play of Foran’s Colleen Ardolino which provided the lone goal of the first 40 minutes.
Chasing down a loose ball, Ardolino then dribbled her way in front, before ripping a laser over the outstretched arms of Shelton goalkeeper Julia Pulley from 18 yards out with 6:18 remaining in the first half.
“She scored a goal like that against them when we played them there,” Blake said of Ardolino. “Tip your hat to Shelton. They kept playing the entire game. They played a good game.”
Della Bitta-Falkowski preserved the lead for the Lions when she came up to force the play against Shelton’s Porto, and took a rocket off the body with 2:45 left in the opening half to keep the Lions on top 1-0.
“I have a lot of confidence in these girls,” Miller said. “We train with a lot of intensity and focus. We are confident we can do this because we train for this.”
Della Bitta-Falkowski had come up big earlier in the opening half when a shot deflected off a Foran defender, then off the post, before Della Bitta-Falkowski was able to cover the ball along the goal line.
Pulley finished with four saves in the win for Shelton, while Della Bitta-Falkowski finished with five saves for the Lions.