MILFORD — Senior midfielder Haley Oko bagged a hat trick to spark Shelton to a 5-0 Southern Connecticut Conference victory over Lauralton Hall on Friday afternoon in Milford.
Oko, an outside right midfielder, opened the scoring three minutes in and the Gaelettes did not slow down in extending their unbeaten streak to eight games.
Shelton, which has six victories and two draws since a 1-0 home defeat to Daniel Hand, improved to 8-2-3 overall and clinched the SCC Hammonasset division title.
“Everybody’s switch is turned on,” Shelton head coach Marvin Miller said. “We played to our ability today.”
Lauralton Hall dropped to 5-9-1 with the loss. The Crusaders need to beat Guilford (9-2-2) on Monday in their season finale in order to qualify for the Class M state tournament.
“We have to show up,” Lauralton head coach Kim Banner said. “It wasn’t our best performance today… We are a better team than what we showed today. It was better fight (last time the teams played — a 2-0 Shelton win). We just had one of those games.”
Oko’s opening salvo ensured it would be an uphill climb for Lauralton. She nearly doubled the Shelton margin at 29:24 but her shot sailed over the frame of keeper Julia Rush’s net.
Shelton kept up the barrage though, with Elizabeth Porto pinging a cross to Leya Vohra that resulted in another near miss.
Julia Sciallo registered the first Crusader shot with 16 minutes left in the first half, but Gaelette keeper Arianna Malick, who combined with Rachel Bishop on the shutout, kicked the ball away.
Cali D’Auria then had a chance for Shelton, when Rush came off her line for a challenge, but the ball was clattered away by the Lauralton defense.
“She was under pressure quite a bit,” Banner said of Rush, who made five saves and faced 20 shots on target. “She held us together. It could have double digits.”
After a brief injury stoppage at 11:37 for a Crusader player, Shelton seized control with its second goal.
“We definitely had control of the run of the play for most of the game,” Miller said. “There was a period about midway through the first half that we started having problems with some loose touches and sloppy passing. We talked about that…They came right out of that and we got two more goals. It was a great response.”
Just 25 seconds later, Oko got free again on the right flank and curled in a shot that crossed the goal line before Lindsay Taylor tapped it home.
A failed Crusader clearance led to the third Shelton marker in the 36th minute, with the ball finding Oko who again slotted it into the back of the net to finish off the hat trick.
Goals from Porto, off an assist from Oko, in the 47th minute and Vohra, from Taylor, on a deft, lofted shot to the upper left corner in the 64th, closed out the scoring and both teams subbed freely the rest of the way.
“We have a deep bench,” Miller said. “We don’t think we give up a lot by going to our bench.”
Shelton closes out its regular season slate next week, traveling to Larry McHugh Field in Middletown for a showdown against Mercy (11-2-1). Then it hosts Harding (1-11) on Thursday. Both kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.