Dave Burnham, Rare Reminder, November 20, 2014
“It’s a bittersweet end, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride!” said first-year Wethersfield girls soccer head coach Emily Fanelli after her team lost 2-0 to #6 Immaculate in a CIAC Class L semi-final at West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium on Nov. 12th.
This was the first time a WHS girls team had progressed to the semi-final stage since winning the Class L title in 1994 when Wethersfield beat Windham in a 2-1 overtime victory.
From the opening whistle, the Mustangs – making their 13th straight state semifinal appearance – went on the offensive and kept the ball in the Eagles’ half for most of the opening minutes.
Linden was awarded a free kick 28 yards out from the WHS goal after being tripped by a defender. From the free kick she curved the ball around the defensive wall, past WHS keeper Summer Budaj and into the top-left corner of the net for a stunning goal seven minutes into the first half.
After the early strike, Immaculate continued to put the squeeze on the Eagles defense and could have made it 2-0 when Hailey Davis had an attempt thwarted by Budaj.
After defending the opening onslaught, the pressure eased for Wethersfield when Maddy Raposo aimed a long ball toward the Mustangs goal for Jane Rumley. The ball took a high bounce off the artificial turf and was caught by Kristen Rossler in front of the oncoming Rumley.
Immaculate started the second half strongly, firing in three shots in the first three minutes and keeping the Eagles pinned down. On the next foray, Wethersfield’s Megan Darrell shielded the ball from Kayla Lanza on the edge of the penalty area, with the two players making contact and the referee awarding the Mustangs a contentious penalty kick. Linden stepped up and put the ball into the top-left corner away from a diving Budaj who ended the night with 16 saves.
“Immaculate was very strong and their speed of play was very fast, which was something we haven’t seen this season,” said Fanelli. “They were quick to every ball and didn’t give us time to play the technical game we’re used to. We weren’t used to that speed of play and they definitely beat us on that. There were opportunities where we could’ve probably done a little bit more, but it just didn’t happen.
“I feel like it was a very good game and we stepped up to the challenge,” continued Fanelli, whose team finished the season with a 13-5-1 record. “Unfortunately their two goals came off a penalty kick and a carded foul right outside the box. If it wasn’t for those two misplayed calls, it would’ve been a 0-0 game. In the end the best team won. It wasn’t our time.”
Despite the defeat, captain Kayla Generis remained upbeat as she looked back on the 2014 season. “Overall I thought the season was a mental and physical roller coaster. We had the highest highs and the lowest lows and somehow we still made it this far.
“At first all I could think about was how ‘lucky’ we were to make the semi-finals, but then I thought about how hard my team worked throughout the season and realized we deserved every minute of it.
“We started off the pre-season games really slow with little motivation, but we switched to a better attitude and it reflected in our games,” the battling playmaker continued.
“Mid-season we faced some tough challenges such as Glastonbury and Simsbury and lost both. We could’ve easily slipped into old habits and not gone into everything with heart. Instead we used the mid-season plunge as motivation to finish as strong as possible. I’m really proud of my team because that was the true test of what kind of team we were.”
Generis, playing her last game for the Eagles, was quick to pay tribute to her teammates. “On paper, I’m the leading scorer, which makes it seem like I’m the stud of the team. But in reality EVERY player on this team contributed just as much as the other. We all stepped up when we needed to and it was a 100% effort from everyone.
“Being the first WHS girls soccer team to make the semi-finals in 20 years is definitely something we deserved. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the chance to win it all, but we need to look at this as an opportunity for our future teams to build on and show other towns that Wethersfield should now be feared!”
The Mustangs beat #4 Avon, 2-1, in the Class L championship final on Nov. 15th at Ken Strong Stadium. This was Immaculate’s first Class L title after moving up from Class S two years ago. Prior to this, the Mustangs had won nine Class S titles between 2003 and 2012.