2020 has been a rollercoaster of a ride for Rocky Hill head coach Annmarie Catania and her Terriers soccer team, “Honestly, it’s been kind of like a fog. I think the girls in the beginning were very hesitant to play a physical game because of everything, like keeping six feet during the first month. They are so used to not touching anybody, you can’t high five anybody, the whole thing is very odd.”
Rocky Hill opened the season with a win over Middletown, only to lose the next four, before earning a second straight victory following a strong second half in a 3-0 home win over Middletown.
It took a while for the Terriers to find their footing, before taking control in the second half on a pair of back-to-back strikes from senior captain Mia Valente.
Valente scored on a header following a perfectly placed corner kick from Madeline Guerrera, 23 minutes into the second frame.
Less than a minute later Valente found the back of the net again on a straight-away kick from point blank range.
“Mia is diehard, she will do anything to not have another loss. Our first halves have been inconsistent. They’re very slow starters but the last 20 minutes was good to see. If we can play like that or the way we did at Maloney every game then I think we would be doing much better,” stated Catania, referring to a 1-0 win at the Meriden-based Spartans on Oct 15.
Rocky Hill controlled the tempo and the ball for a majority of the second half, and goalie Lillian Aube protected the net from start to finish.
Aube made a handful of saves, including a nifty sliding save to stop a breakaway with the game scoreless midway through the second half.
“Lillian has gotten so much better over the last month,” Catania said of Aube, who is a first-year starter, “Her confidence level has grown and I think she is doing excellent on breakaways, which is the hardest thing to learn as a keeper. She’s made some game-saving saves.”
Catania added that senior captain Hannah Conneely is the engine behind the team, which consists of 14 seniors.
“This senior class is excellent. It’s a nice group of girls, probably the best senior class that we’ve had that have been respectful on and off the field. They’ve dealt with this much better than I thought they would, and they want the season to continue, so they’re following everything they need to follow and they’re great role models for the younger girls.”
Catania credited senior Jillian Chipkin with making significant strides, helping solidify the defense, “She’s made the biggest growth out of anyone I’ve seen since I’ve been in Rocky Hill. From her junior to senior year her growth has been beautiful to watch. She’s tough and she’s been a big anchor back there.”
Chipkin is joined on the defensive end by fellow seniors Jennifer Kimball and Guerrera.
Catania has leaned on her seniors and likes the young talent on the roster, particularly sophomore Gianna Nanci, who she credited with “changing the mood of the game upfront” and freshman Skylar Sweeney, who she called “amazing in the middle.”
With 1:40 remaining, sophomore Sophia Scalise added the third and final goal of the evening.
The victory over Middletown improved the Terriers to 3-4 in the highly competitive conference, which features rivals Newington and Wethersfield.
Turning those slow starts into quicker starts is the goal for the stretch run in what has been an up-and-down and unpredictable season for Catania, “I think they’re not enjoying the moment because they are waiting for it to end in a strange sense, but we just have to start games better.”
Middletown fell to 0-6. Goalie and captain Victoria Correll played well in defeat and made several stops in the second half, allowing the Blue Dragons to stay within striking distance.
The teams are scheduled to meet one more time on Nov 15, again at RHHS. The Terriers will be aiming to sweep the season series.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin