NEWINGTON - Adam Wilkinson told his Newington girls soccer team before Mondayâ€™s regular season finale against Wethersfield to attack the net early and often.
The Indians listened, peppering the Eaglesâ€™ goal through a dominant first half, putting home two early goals before coasting to a 2-0 win to enter the Class LL state tournament with an impressive 14-2 record.
â€śI told them before the game to come out flying and they wonâ€™t know what hit them,â€ť said Wilkinson, who notched the win over his daughter and Wethersfield sophomore Cameryn Wilkinson. â€śThey did that. It probably should have been easily 5-0 at halftime.â€ť
The victory was the third in a row for Newington, with all three coming by way of shutouts. Through the first 60 minutes of play, the defense didnâ€™t have to be its normal shutdown self, because the offense kept the field slanted towards Wethersfieldâ€™s net.
The Indians began their early barrage of chances with just six minutes gone by in the first half, when Reagan Pelton lifted a centering pass to Sabrina Soler, who was crashing the net as the ball just rolled out of her reach. Moments later, Olivia Mullings sent through a lead pass to a streaking Emma dos Santos, but Wethersfield goalkeeper Ava Belenda beat dos Santos to the loose ball and knocked it out of danger to keep the game scoreless.
The scoreless start was short lived, however. Soler fielded a loose ball near midfield and sent a pass to Mullings, who blew past the Eaglesâ€™ defense and launched a shot underneath the crossbar to continue her sensational junior campaign and give Newington a 1-0 lead with 30:13 left in the half.
Mullings had another chance midway through the first half on another through ball, but her shot was knocked away by a sliding Belenda, who came in to disrupt the shot just before Mullings got it off. Pelton had a similar chance later in the half, but her open shot in front rolled just wide of the goalpost.
With 12:27 left in the half, Pelton found a loose ball in front of the net and fired off a shot that glanced off a Wethersfield defender and rolled into the corner of the net to give the Indians a 2-0 lead, while the Eagles continued to search for their first shot on net.
The Indians continued their dominant half with another golden chance when Giuliana Stolfi lined up for a penalty kick, but her low shot to the corner was stopped by a diving Belenda, who read it all the way to keep Wethersfieldâ€™s deficit at two with just under four minutes to go in the first.
â€śThe score was a bit misleading,â€ť Wilkinson said. â€śThat 2-0 lead could have been a lot more if we made the most of our chances.â€ť
The Eagles (10-4) were able to settle down Newingtonâ€™s relentless offensive attack through the first 20 minutes of the second half, but werenâ€™t able to generate much offense of its own. Its first shot on net in the half came on a turnaround shot from just outside the penalty area by Madison Righi, but the ball was tipped and lost steam as it rolled into the lap of Indians goalkeeper Ella DePase as Wethersfield turned up the pressure.
â€śI think it was a combination on us holding onto the ball for just a little bit too long, and they also put far more pressure on us than in the first half,â€ť Wilkinson said.
With two minutes left in the half, Annie Klementon came up with Wethersfieldâ€™s best chance of the day, firing a shot from straight on that clanged off the crossbar with two minutes left. The Eagles owned ball possession for much of the second half, but the Indians held strong and preserved the shutout victory to close out the regular season.
â€śThey gave us less time to think,â€ť Wilkinson said of the second half. â€śIt ended up getting to be a scrappy game and was aggressive. It wasnâ€™t as free-flowing as the first half. But defensively, weâ€™ve been solid all year. We bend, but donâ€™t break. Weâ€™ve been that way all season.â€ť
Newington 2, Wethersfield 0
Halftime: Newington 2-0.
Goals: Olivia Mullings (N), Reagan Pelton (N).
Assists: Sabrina Soler (N).
Saves: Ella DePase (N) 2, Ava Belenda (W) 3.
Records: Newington 14-2, Wethersfield 10-6.