Portland's #8 Lillian Carroll competes with Cromwell's #7 Alyssa Bonelli for the ball during the Shoreline Conference semifinals. The Highlanders would win 1-0 at CHS.
Sometimes revenge is a dish best served in the tournament.
Portland girls’ soccer had two chances at revenge in the Shoreline Conference tourney and capitalized on both opportunities.
The Highlanders defeated Cromwell 1-0 at Cromwell High School last Monday (Nov. 1) in the semifinals of the SLC, handing the Panthers their first loss of the season and avenging a 1-0 loss at Portland High on Oct. 14.
Sophomore Camryn DiMauro hammered home the game’s only goal after receiving a perfectly placed pass from senior Kendra Schoeps to break a scoreless time in the 76th minute, sending the Highlanders to the SLC championship game.
It was a duplicate feat for DiMauro’s, who also tallied the game winning goal in the opening round of the conference tourney.
“She had the game-winner against Coginchaug a couple of days ago, so it’s her second game-winner in the last couple of days. She got in the right position and it was a great cross from Kendra and she just buried it. It was an unbelievable goal,” Portland head coach Joseph Santavenere said.
Cromwell entered the game without a loss, finishing the regular season 10-0-6. The tournament defeat was a new experience for the young Panthers.
“Our problem is finishing. We struggle to finish and in games like this that hurts because one mistake can cost us the game,” said Cromwell head coach Marcelo Caetano.
Caetano received another incredible performance from his keeper, Lily Kenney, who made 13 saves. Prior to the Portland game, Kenney had shutout a dozen opponents this fall
“Lily can only make so many saves and our defense can only hold for so long. Credit #2 [DiMauro], she was the best player on the field outside of our goalie and she made us pay,” added Caetano, who praised his keeper. “Lily is a fantastic athlete and great kid. She’s a gamer and once the game starts she turns it on.”
Santavenere also called Kenney “outstanding” and credited the opposing goalie with keeping her cool after making a pair of crucial saves in the second half; stopping a direct penalty kick from Kendall Prince and sliding to stop a close range shot from Mia Quesnel.
A defensive breakdown allowed the Highlanders to squeeze a rare goal by Kenney and on the other side of the field Portland’s senior goalie Hannah Brunk sent back every shot that came her way.
“We knew they like to play a kick and go game because they have fast forwards and strikers, so we knew going into it we had to be really strong defensively and then if we got that lead we dropped more people back to shut them down,” stated Brunk. “We didn’t want another overtime game.”
Brunk also faced pressure in the second half, particularly over the final three minutes when Cromwell tried desperately to get the equalizer. However, Brunk and a defensive unit led by senior captain Giuliana Discenza stymied every attempt.
“Heading into [the tournament] the two teams we lost two in conference were Coginchaug and Cromwell, so this week was lined up perfectly,” added Brunk, referring to back-to-back losses in mid-October, “We just wanted it. Like our team said ‘we beat them when it counted’.”
Santavenere said the regular season conference losses motivated his squad, “It was a tough week but they didn’t get down. They are playing really hard and leaving it all on the field. They’ve come along the last couple games; it’s been a team effort. I’m proud of the whole team.”
The Highlanders advanced to the SLC championship where they would fall to Morgan 2-1 on Nov. 5. The team’s season came to an end in the first round of the Class S finals, losing to Coventry 2-1 on penalty kicks on Nov. 8.
For Cromwell, it’s a team blended with youth and experience, led by senior captains Bella Barber, Amira Abdelghany, Erin Sokolowski, and Devon Riggio (who was injured for the Portland game).
Caetano said the team has their sights set on bigger accomplishments, “This loss will hopefully meld us and since our youth is the base of our team they needed this. It might be premature to say this year but what happens the rest of the year should help us the next two or three years.”
The Panthers shook off the conference loss to Portland and won their opening round Class M game, defeating Wolcott 3-0 on Nov. 8. Liv Lustiani, Audrey Dana, and Cameryn Hickey each scored in the Panthers tourney victory.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin