(Newington soccer captains Claudia Padykula, Skylar Couillard, and Abigail Molloy)
Junior Zoe Walk scored a go-ahead goal midway through the second half as Newington girls’ soccer earned an important 3-2 victory over Middletown last Tuesday at Clem Lemire Recreation Complex.
The win improved the Indians to 5-5 and snapped a two-game skid for the home team, who were coming off a pair of one-goal defeats to Wethersfield and RHAM.
“The system has changed from last year, so even the returning players are having to adapt,” said Newington head coach Adam Wilkinson, who is attempting to replacing the talent that graduated last season, “You basically took out the spine of the team. We haven’t figured out the players to replace it yet and it’s taking some time to find a balance.”
Last fall, Wilkinson and his crew won a dozen regular season games and two more tournament games to reach the quarterfinals in the Class LL tourney.
Seniors Skylar Couillard, Claudia Padykula, and junior Abigail Molloy have taken over as team captains. The three are learning of the fly and settling into their new roles as the season has aged.
“Our chemistry is a lot better. We have some new people from different club teams, but that hasn’t affected things,” said Couillard, “Adam’s coaching style has brought us all together. It’s been easier to communicate rather than guessing where everyone is going to be.”
“I feel like I’ve got to take on a little bit bigger of a role because we lost the four seniors and they were all really good, but I’m definitely comfortable with these two behind me,” added Molloy, referring to her co-captains.
It was the third loss of the season for Middletown, who entered the game riding high after rallying from four goals down before ultimately tying Glastonbury last week.
The Blue Dragons came to Newington with momentum, but were without the services of all-conference senior Amalia Sessoms, who scored the equalizer in the comeback against Glastonbury.
“Amalia is out with a concussion, but we’re a strong team all around. We just need to keep playing the way we know how to play and be consistent,” Middletown head coach Rachel Lemke said following the loss, “Sometimes we get stuck in little ruts and don’t play consistently throughout the game. We’re a talented group, we have ten seniors and we’ve got a couple younger kids that are going to help now and into the future. We just have to fix some things and continue to play like we know how to play the rest of the season.”
Senior Kaitlyn D’Amico did her best to fill void left by Sessoms, scoring both of the team’s goals.
D’Amico shares the captain responsibilities with Sessoms and fellow senior Madyson Fitzner.
“They take the team under their wing,” Lemke said of her three field generals, “I don’t need to say anything to them. They’re leaders and they’ll get the other players going.”
Offensively the team has had some ups and downs, but they’ve been sound defensively all season.
Goalie Veronica Meyers has posted two shutouts through the first ten games.
“Veronica has been in goal all season and she’s improved tremendously,” said Lemke, “She’s improved her game sense and her knowledge. She’s gotten more comfortable with the game and understanding.”
Lemke and her girls shook off the loss to Newington and finished last week with 3-2 road victory over Bristol Eastern for their sixth win of the season. They’re in good shape heading into the stretch run, but the coach wants to see more of that fire and determination that was on display during the second half of the Glastonbury game.
“I’d like to see us play a full 80 minutes consistently. They have to keep striving for their own goals they made for this season. One of our small goals is to win the conference again, so that’s something that we’re still working at.”
Newington followed up the victory over Middletown by blanking Windsor 5-0 Friday night. It was the team’s fifth win in seven games.
The team is peaking at the right time, but Wilkinson wants to see a few areas cleaned up before November rolls around.
“We’re still having problems with our midfield rotation. We’re playing around with a few things to find a balance and may have to change the system,” stated the fifth-year coach, “We’re also having a few difficulties defending free kicks into the box. We worked on it for 45 minutes and then lost to RHAM on a free kick into the box and when we lost to Wethersfield in overtime it was that same thing, so obviously we need more work on it. We did it again today. The second goal for them was the same thing. We know what we have to work on, now it’s just how quickly we can fix it.”
Junior keeper Jenna Scanlon is the last line of defense on the free kicks and is protecting the net after battling back from injuries in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“Jenna tore one ACL her freshman year and tore her other ACL her sophomore year, so she’s having to work a little bit on mobility and also there’s the mental side of it. It’s certainly nice having a keeper for the full year,” Wilkinson added, “Obviously there’s a few hurdles she has to get over on the recovery, but she’s been solid and it’s nice having her back.”
The win over Windsor was Scanlon’s fifth shutout this season.
A trio of freshmen have also joined the rotation, gaining valuable experience for a group playing on the big stage for the first time.
“Olivia Mullings, Emily Chojnicki, and Grace Canepari are our three freshman and they’ve been solid. I don’t usually change much defensively, so Grace only played a few games and she was solid in those couple of games. She's a very good player, her chance will come. Emily has stepped up and started to play well and Olivia had a great game against Wethersfield, scoring two goals. She’s got pace and she’s got very good technique. She just has to get a little more confident in herself.”
Wilkinson’s squad will close the regular season with a brutal four-game stretch, starting a road game at Glastonbury on Friday, Oct 20 at 3:45 p.m.
They finish with back-to-back games against Rocky Hill (10/27) and at Wethersfield (10/30). They lost the previous meetings with the Terriers and Eagles, both in overtime. The team has matured since the previous meetings and will have revenge on their minds.
“This win pumped us up,” Padykula said after the Middletown game, “The new players we have are amazing and I feel like we’re playing a lot better now.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin