HAMDEN — With youth comes inexperience. Sometimes that youth can be bad. Other times, it can be great.
Hamden girls soccer coach Ken Boucher got to see a mixture of both Tuesday afternoon. Trailing by a pair of goals, the youthful Green Dragons turned the game around, scoring five times in a span of 20 minutes, 17 seconds, to defeat rival Sacred Heart Academy 5-3 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division A contest at Sacred Heart Academy.
“We are talented, but very young,” Boucher said. “We start four freshmen and three sophomores. I thought we showed our age in the beginning of the game. We had the deer in the headlights look. All of a sudden, our centers started coming up and we put in five goals. Our youth showed both sides today.”
While Hamden’s youth showed, it was clearly a case of missed opportunities for the Sharks on Senior Day. Sacred Heart Academy had numerous opportunities to expand a two-goal lead, including a handful from in close, but could not do so, allowing Hamden to storm back.
“In the first half, we had three or four opportunities that went just two feet wide,” Sacred Heart Academy coach Robert Silvestri said. “We had a couple of missed opportunities. We didn’t put those in and they started to attack us.”
Trailing 2-0 after Sacred Heart freshman Adrina Tuozzoli scored the first of her two goals off a scramble in front 8:36 into the second half, Hamden turned the contest around in an instant.
Freshman Ariana Mullin, who would score three times in the second half, started the comeback by feeding a loose ball to Tiatianna Jones, who fired a rocket to the lower left corner to get Hamden on the board.
The goal by Jones sparked the Green Dragons as they became more physical and started to control play. Just 3:08 after Jones scored, Olivia Maxwell fed Mullin off a turnover and Mullin found the lower part of the net to even the game at two with 26:21 remaining.
“We really came back and started to pressure them,” Mullin said. “We started to pressure the ball. Once we did that, we started to get more chances.”
The game opened up at that point with each team missing golden opportunities to take the lead when Sacred Heart’s Jada Ijeh was turned aside from 15 yards out, and Jones sailed a shot just wide of an open net three minutes later.
Hamden (4-2) finally took the lead for good when Jones scored her second of the game on a beautiful deke with 14:19 left in the second half.
“I am very proud of them,” Boucher said of his team. “We did not play our best and we were able to come back and take over the game in the second half. It was a sloppy win, but good teams find a way to win those.”
Mullin and the Green Dragons sealed the contest, scoring twice in 3:43 to take a 5-2 lead with 9:12 remaining. Mullin’s second goal of the game came off a steal and was a rocket from 30 yards out, before her third goal was of the unassisted variety.
“This game shows we can come back,” Mullin said. “We encouraged each other to do better and we did.”
The Sharks made things interesting with a goal by Tuozzoli with 1:26 to go, but when Ijeh sailed a shot just over the crossbar 30 seconds later, Sacred Heart was unable to get closer.
“It goes without saying a two-goal lead is the worst lead to have,” Silvestri said. “Maybe the mindset is to relax, but you can’t. This is a good wakeup call for the kids. Unfortunately, it was on Senior Night. Hamden is a good team. I am not going to take any credit away from them. Hamden came back and played a great game.”
The Sharks (3-1-1) controlled the pace of play in the opening half, despite only holding a 7-5 advantage in shots. Sacred Heart controlled play in Hamden’s half for a majority of the opening half and scored the lone goal off a corner when a loose ball went to Ijeh, who ripped a shot home for a 1-0 Sacred Heat lead with 16:42 gone by in the game.
Hamden’s two best opportunities to even the game in the opening half came when Lilyana Joseph hit the side of the net in close, and Maxwell was turned aside from 10 yards out by Sacred Heart goalkeeper Ava King.
Hamden 5, Sacred Heart Academy 3
0 5 — 5
Sacred Heart Academy (3-1-0)
1 2 — 3
Goals: Sacred Heart Academy — Jada Ijeh goal (from Elizabeth Carchia), 59:00; Adrina Tuozzzoli goal, 59:00; Adrina Tuozzzoli goal, 59:00. Hamden — Tatianna Jones goal (from Ari Mullin), 59:00; Ari Mullin goal (from Olivia Maxwell), 59:00; Tatianna Jones goal, 59:00; Ari Mullin goal, 59:00; Ari Mullin goal, 59:00.