Young Bobcats Advance to Soccer Semis
Bacon Academy freshman Bailey Elliott pursues Mercy’s Julia Salley during the Class M semifinals at Veterans Stadium in New Britain on Nov. 16. The Bobcats lost 3-0 to the Tigers, who would go on to win a second straight state championship.
Bacon Academy girls’ soccer head coach Matt Rafala guided his Bobcats to the state semifinals in his first season running the program.
After winning ten games in the regular season, the team was victorious in the first three rounds of the Class M state tournament before losing to Mercy, 3-0, in the semifinal round at Veterans Stadium in New Britain on Nov. 16.
It was the furthest the Bobcats have advanced in the state tourney in 15 years, last making the semifinals in 2007.
“It was a great season. I’m proud of this team,” Rafala said after the elimination game. “We had a great run; it was a good accomplishment.”
In the loss to Mercy—a private school from Middletown—the Bobcats went toe-to-toe with the defending state champion Tigers.
Following a goal from Mercy’s Laney Smith in the fourth minute of the game, Bacon stiffened on defense and didn’t allow another goal for the next 65 minutes of action until Megan Menard and Kate Donlan each scored in the final ten minutes of regulation.
“They have been in these types of games the entire season and they have come back with seconds left in the game, so this bunch never felt like they were out of it. They have always had that fire and it showed tonight,” stated Rafala. “They stuck with a team that was the defending state champs for a reason. They were going up against a tall task and they rose to it. I am really, really proud of them.”
Mercy would advance to the state championship where they would defeat Northwest Catholic to capture the Class M championship for the second straight season—last year finishing as co-champions with Sacred Heart.
The loss to Mercy was the final game for four Bacon Academy seniors.
Captains Maddox Burton and Anna LeGault, along with Trinity Georgens and Danielle Benoit, helped Rafala guide an inexperienced team that started three freshmen and four sophomores against Mercy.
“[The seniors] helped bring the team together and the leadership they showed to help bring along the freshman and bring along the sophomore,” stated Rafala. “They gave the rest of the team the opportunity to come in and step into the light and shine for themselves.”
Sophomore goalie Liz Glover will again be the anchor on the back end next year. Glover posted ten shutouts this fall, including three straight in the state tournament as the Bobcats blanked Seymour (4-0), Plainville (1-0), and Lewis Mills (1-0).
Rafala called Glover “amazing” and said that she stood tall against the top teams in the state all season.
“Liz is a special one. She stops so many shots that I don’t think many people can,” added Rafala. “I have yet to see a goalkeeper in the state that has wowed me more than she has. “
Glover will lead a Class of 2025 that also includes returning starters Veronica Smith, Audrey Palmer, and Katelyn Novak. Freshmen starters Alyssa Blanchette, Lanie McIlduff, and Mia Hageman will also be back to head the Class of 2026.
Junior Emily Ferrigno and Kayla Hall are also expected back to assume the senior leadership duties next fall.
With nearly their entire starting lineup slated to return next season, the future looks bright for the Bobcats.
“We’ll have some really young talented coming back, so fingers crossed,” said Rafala. “Hopefully they can take this experience and that it drives them next year.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin