In a game that had a little bit of everything, Wethersfield girls’ soccer scored two goals in the final ten minutes to defeat Rocky Hill 2-0 last Wednesday night.
Senior captain Cindy Biraci scored the go-ahead goal after receiving a pinpoint pass from sophomore Sindy Hima at the 9:54 mark of the second half. Biraci then set up junior Allie Leahy with 5:44 remaining.
Wethersfield’s home opener featured tremendous goalkeeping from both sides, a lengthy lighting delay, and several high-speed collisions between players.
With the game scoreless at the half, Wethersfield head coach Tony Leone modified his starting lineup to provide a spark.
“I came out in the second half and played all the sophomores,” said Leone, “It brought that energy and just like scoring, that energy can be contagious.”
Playing without injured offensive stars Cameryn Wilkinson and Kathleen Brush, the Eagles relied on a strong defense and senior goalie Riley Ford to overcome the early offensive deficiencies.
Defensive standouts Andrea Buzas and Alison Wagner are captaining the team, along with Biraci and Wilkinson.
“They are learning how to be leaders,” stated Leone, “I think they need to be a little bit better at holding each other more accountable, but they will get there. They want to be better leaders, overall I’ve been please with all of them.”
Moments after Biraci’s goal, heat lighting caused what amounted to a 40-minute delay. Once play resumed, Rocky Hill came out on the attack but Ford and the defense stiffened each time prior to Leahy’s insurance goal.
Leone credits his goalie with staying patient over the previous two season when she split time with more experienced keepers, “If Riley was at another school, she would have been a three-year starter. But she’s been a trooper, always positive, and she’s waited for her moment.”
Riley’s counterpart was also up to the challenge. Rocky Hill freshman goalie Emelia Pacheco-Hager showed a skillset and a command protecting the net that is uncommon for a first-year high school player.
Pacheco-Hager was spectacular from start to finish, saving 16 shots, including several diving and sliding stops. Her 16th saved happened
moments before the final horn sounded.
Head coach Annmarie Catania has been thrilled with her new keeper, “Everyone plays better when you see someone paying goalie that that has as much desire and passion that she has, and the way she leaves it on the field is beautiful to watch. I can’t wait to see what becomes of her over the next three years.”
Catania added that Pacheco-Hagar came in with experience against top-notch completion from her work with Premier Soccer prior to her arrival at RHHS.
Defensive captain Sarah Butler helped lead the unit in front of Rocky Hill’s freshman-phenom.
“She’s been able to step up this year,” Catania said of Butler, “She has the confidence, and she’s matured this year. For the seniors this year, it’s a comfort level.”
Fellow seniors Gillian Fernstrom and Rosie Blair are the other captains. Catania praised Fernstrom’s consistency and toughness, and the improvement of Blair’s skillset.
The Terriers had a handful of scoring opportunities against the Eagles, including a couple of solid shot attempts from freshman Kaitlyn Pereau.
Catania said she liked the team’s chemistry and how the team is moving the ball, which she hopes will translate over into more scoring.
“I think this game tonight said a lot about them. I’ve been impressed,” added Catania.
For Wethersfield, the win moved them to 2-0. The Eagles opened the season with a 2-1 win at Windsor. Once fully healthy, Leone hopes the team can increase the scoring and translate the positive energy in practice onto the field.
“We have a good team bond. This team gets along well, so helpfully that will help down the road,” stated Leone, “Everyone is having a good time and communicating in practice and then we get out on the field and everyone is quite. We need to have some balance, we want to be friends but when we get on the field we have to be a little more accountable and a little more critical of one another. That’s what good teammates do.”
Rocky Hill freshman goalie Emelia Pacheco-Hager makes one of her 16 saves against Wethersfield. (Photo credit: Lisa Raczka)
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin