Dave Burnham, Rare Reminder, September 25, 2014
It’s been a character-building start to the 2014 soccer season for the Newington High School girls team. Led by English-born head coach Adam Wilkinson, the Indians started the season brightly on Sept. 9 with a 6-1 scoring spree against Bristol Central. The rout was led by Kayla LaRosa, making the switch from midfield to attack, who snagged four and strike partner all-state pick Kaila Lozada who chipped in with two goals and two assists.
“The most pleasing aspect was how well we possessed the ball and controlled the game while keeping things tight at the back,” said Wilkinson. “It’s always nice to start with a win and the positivity and confidence it can bring. I hope we take that forward. We have plenty of tough games ahead.”
The Indians then embarked on a grueling four games in eight days stretch starting at home on Sept. 12 against CCC (Central Connecticut Conference) West rival Simsbury. The elation of the opening game victory was erased by the visiting Trojans who won 3-1, with Katelyn Andrews scoring for Newington.
“In the CCC West, Simsbury, Hall, Farmington, Northwest Catholic, Southington, Conard and ourselves are all capable of beating each other on any given day,” added Wilkinson.
Next on the schedule was a tribal battle with the rival Indians of Farmington on Sept. 15. The visitors opened the scoring midway through the first half when Ali Sheedy lobbed the ball over Newington goalie Marissa Veilleux.
The hosts started the second half in lively fashion by stringing passes together and keeping the well-organized Farmington defense on its toes. As Newington pressed for an equalizer, Farmington scored again when Veilleux deflected an Issy Lipinski shot leaving Annie Harris to score on the rebound.
Newington scored with 7:43 remaining when Grace Ancona set up Lozada to score. Lozada nearly grabbed an equalizer with 5:31 left on the clock but her shot was saved.
“We’re struggling defensively,” stated Wilkinson, a coach who tells it how it is. “We’re making some fundamental errors at the back and through the midfield. We’ve talent upfront, but we’re not holding the ball up. We’re lacking cohesion. We haven’t had a shut out yet and it’s a concern. Farmington’s two goals came from mistakes that we should be eliminating.
“The girls came out flat in the first half and I tore into them at half time,” Wilkinson continued. “We made a couple of tactical adjustments to compensate for what [Farmington head coach] Steve Jarvis was doing with his holding midfielder [Lipinski]. I asked my girls to play a little quicker and with more care. They did, but we didn’t get that goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Farmington adjusted accordingly, countered and scored again.
“Kaila Lozada was all-state last year and she’s an awesome player,” Wilkinson added. “Tonight she tried to take on too much, but they were too well organized. Farmington had two players on her all the time. She’s going to find that when you make all-state, everyone knows what you’re about and make adjustments to suit.
“Grace Ancona, one of my captains, plays with pride and has a feistiness about her. She didn’t like the fact we were losing and things weren’t going right. Grace’s nice and aggressive in the tackle. She tries to take the game by the scruff of the neck and I like that in a player.”
A trip to West Hartford to meet the Hall Warriors just two days later was next on the Indians’ schedule.
Newington started the game slowly and fell behind early after Chantelle Swaby scored from a header. Within 10 minutes Hall scored again when the Newington defense was caught flat footed and Kyanna Alleyne slotted the ball home.
The Indians started the second half with more urgency and pulled a goal back when Amanda Kapuscinski scored from close range after some excellent work from Lozada. Energized by the goal, an equalizer soon followed when Lozada found the net after some intricate passing work with Julianna Santos.
Hall retook the lead when Swaby scored from eight yards. The Indians pushed for another equalizer but were made to pay when a pass was intercepted 25 yards out by Alleyne who scored in the top corner of the net.
“We continued to make the same defensive mistakes as our previous two games,” said a disappointed Wilkinson. “Our inability to deal with high balls and crosses into the box from both open play and set pieces is putting us behind. Our offense is doing everything it can to get us back but the holes we’re digging are too deep to get out of.”
NHS returned to winning ways on Sept. 19 when it demonstrated that offense is the best form of defense by hammering the New Britain Hurricanes, 5-0, at Veteran’s Stadium. The double-trouble strike force of LaRosa and Lozada scored two goals each and Santos added another to leave the Indians with a 2-3 record.
Wilkinson, who played youth soccer for Rochdale in England and professionally with the Massachusetts Pioneers, assessed his progress in his second year as head coach: “I had 15 players returning from 2013, so a lot of my coaching philosophies are embedded in the majority of the girls. The harder part is the impact as a returning coach is not the same as the first year. Some players may feel a little more comfortable so I need to push them out of their comfort zones and keep them on their toes.
“I believe soccer should be an enjoyable experience and I try to make it that way,” stated Wilkinson. “However, I’m a big believer in hard work and toughness, which probably stems from how I play the game myself. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t the most refined technically as player when I was younger, but I had a high level of intensity and worked hard every practice and game to compensate for that. I expect no less from my players. I can be demanding and you’ll definitely hear me on the sideline, but I like to think that I can also be realistic about my team and my players and the expectations I have of them.”
See the published feature HERE