HAMDEN — Sacred Heart Academy girls’ soccer coach George Bedocs said his team learned a valuable lesson Monday afternoon. Fortunately for Bedocs and his squad, they were able to get this lesson with a win.
After allowing three West Haven goals in a span of 3 minutes, 40 seconds with less than 16 minutes to go in the game, Sacred Heart turned to star player Mary Verneris to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Westies in Hamden.
Just 2:45 after West Haven’s Allyson Hemstock evened the game at 3 with 11:40 left, Verneris answered. The junior scored her second goal of the game when Morgan Daley sent a perfect corner out front that Verneris drilled past West Haven goalkeeper Maggie Borer for the eventual game-winner.
“We met the challenge,” Bedocs said after his team improved to 7-0-3. “The important thing is we learned a lesson. We got away with it. This is a big win for us.
“It is big because we want to learn from this. It is also big because it is a league game. It is a Quinnipiac Division game. They are all big.”
With the Pacers leading 3-0, the Westies mounted a furious comeback late in the game.
Melanie Reiss was the catalyst as she gathered a Sacred Heart turnover, controlled the ball off her chest and kicked it past Pacers’ goalkeeper Emma Brindisi with 15:04 remaining.
With the wind swirling and the rain falling harder, Marisa Pacapelli broke in on Brindisi and slipped a shot through the goalkeeper’s hands to cut the deficit to 3-2 just 2:56 after Reiss’ goal.
With all the momentum on their side, the Westies were not finished.
Just 28 seconds after Pacapelli’s goal, Hemstock took a perfect pass from Alexis Severino and drilled a shot past Brindisi for the equalizer.
“We started winning more balls,” a frustrated West Haven coach John Camara said after his team fell to 4-5-1. “In the first half, we had the wind and thought it was going to be an easy game. We realized that was not the situation.
“We made some changes. We put a couple more attack players and pushed up more to equalize the game. It worked.”
While the Westies can feel good they evened the game, they can’t be too happy they fell behind the Pacers three goals despite holding a 16-8 shot advantage.
“I am very disappointed,” Camara said. “It seemed like all they had to do was go near the net and it went in. One goal can win a game. We are scoring three and that is not enough.”
The Pacers struck quickly to get on the board first. With the wind against them, the Pacers countered when Sydney Sullivan popped a pass over the West Haven defense to Angela Ciaramella who beat Borer with a quick shot just 3:13 into the game.
The Westies had their opportunities but Brindisi made six saves in the first half. Brindisi made a diving save of a Pacapelli shot 17:29 in, then denied Reiss from in close 6 minutes later.
The Pacers responded with a goal off a corner kick. Daley again took a perfect corner that Verneris, who was all alone, headed near the right post with 7:48 left in the first half for a 2-0 lead.
“Mary is strong every game,” Bedocs said. “She is our most consistent player. She is big every game when we need her.”
The Westies had three opportunities to cut the deficit in half to start the second half with freshman Gabi Prisco in the middle of them all.
Prisco sent a pair of corners toward the net within 1 minute of each other that Jolie Morrell headed wide on the first and was denied by Brindisi on the second. Prisco was then stopped by Brindisi following a great move 3 minutes later.
The Pacers appeared to put the game away with 19:52 remaining as Sullivan fed Isabela Blackwell who beat Borer for a 3-0 lead.
Daley and Sullivan each had a pair of assists for the Pacers. Brindisi finished with 13 saves for Sacred Heart while Borer made four saves.