CHESHIRE — Shelton head coach Marvin Miller gave a pump of his fist when Noelle Garretson put his fourth-seeded Gaels in front of No. 1 Cheshire in their SCC girls soccer semifinal on Monday night. He limited himself to a smile and accepted pats on the back from his assistant coaches when Leya Vohra accounted for the 2-0 final with 16 minutes left to play at Alumni Field.
“I haven’t talked to the girls about back-to-back, because I didn’t want to curse them,” said Miller, who has led his team to SCC titles in 2010, 2015 and 2018. “I’m really proud of them. It hasn’t been done in this league in a long time. We sure like the chance and appreciate the opportunity to do it.”
Shelton (12-2-4) will play Guilford (12-2-4) in the SCC championship game on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium. The third-seeded Indians defeat No. 2 Mercy, 1-0, in their semifinal. Shelton and Guilford did not meet in the regular season.
Cheshire (10-3-2) had the better of possession in the the opening 13 minutes, but couldn’t get a shot on frame.
Garretson’s goal came at the end of a passing sequence that began with Lindsay Taylor and was completed by Elizabeth Porto.
“I like to play a team from out front,” Miller said. “Garretson was phenomenal up top. She worked that goal and she gets us a lot of looks from outside right.”
A junior, Garretson had two more chances in the next three minutes, only to have one blast saved by Cheshire keeper Seymore Rosenberg and another blocked by Danielle Ellis.
The Rams’ Anna Hurlbut looked to tie the game in the 22nd minute. Sophia Offerdahl sent her in alone on Shelton keeper Arianna Malick, who blocked her shot then kept her feet and dove on the carom.
It was all Offerdahl, who was a constant threat for the Rams, when the senior carried by the baseline and fired on Malick while going to the turf. Malick knocked the ball away, and Vohra slid across to turn another salvo aside.
“I think in the first half we absorbed most of it (Cheshire pressure),” Miller said. “We hoped we’d find some space and Noelle did that for us. I knew they would come back even more in the second half. Cheshire is a very skilled, well coached team. It played out like I thought.”
The Rams attacked from the outset following the halftime break. Vohra cleared one sustained threat and Malick made the save on Marisa Brough’s shot eight minutes into the session.
“We talked at halftime about grit,” Cheshire coach Kylee McIntosh said. “Grit is what it was going to take. I think in both halves we had the majority of the play, but they were the ones that finished goals. I don’t think their (the Rams) level dropped at all, I think their intensity raised every time (they got scored on).”
Rosenberg collected a rocket shot by Vohra and Ellie Pergolotti blocked another shot before it reached her keeper at the 62-minute mark.
Two minutes later, a great tackle by Shelton’s Carolyn Maher stopped the dangerous rush of Ariana Geloso.
The Gaelettes countered quickly, with Vohra going left to right before she delivered an unstoppable shot under the crossbar.
“We played with our hearts, we didn’t let down, and we played our game, ” Vohra said. “Last year we got to an SCC final (and won)…We want to get this title back to back, two years in a row.”
OFF THE PITCH
Since the SCC went to an 8-team playoff format, Cheshire was making its fifth SCC semifinal appearance since 2010. The Rams had reached the SCC championship game eight times, winning or sharing seven titles — most recently in 2016.
Shelton was making its third straight and eighth SCC semifinal appearance. Shelton had made five trips to the SCC championship game, winning three times (2018, 2015 and 2010).
In the quarterfinals, Shelton had defeated Sheehan 1-0. Cheshire toppled Daniel Hand by the same score.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Leya Vohra was Shelton’s muscle in the middle, provided transition passes, blocked a pair of shots, and scored the Gaelettes’ second goal.