Editor's Note: The following preview article has been borrowed from Avon Patch, so it's told from that school's point of view.
After winning the Class L title against Farmington last year, Avon High School girls soccer returns for its fourth consecutive state championship game.
"We are very excited about another opportunity to play for back-to-back state championships," head coach James Murray said. "We know that we are fortunate to be here and we have learned that it is important to capitalize on our opportunities. That is what will make the difference."
The program has qualified for the state tournament finals nine times in 29 years. Seeded second in Class L this year, the Falcons will face the fourth-ranked Masuk team in Meriden Friday right before the Avon boys play. This is the second consecutive year both Avon teams have made the finals. Avon has never played Masuk, Murray said.
Last year, the Avon girls won their first Class L championship in school history against local rival Farmington. Erica Primovic, who graduated last spring and now plays soccer at the University of Hartford, toppled the Indians' 1-0 first-half lead with two goals in the second to win the game.
Even without Primovic or the 10 other seniors who graduated last year, six of whom started, Avon still thrives in high pressure moments. For example, in a game against Enfield earlier in the season, Murray said the Falcons were down 2-0 with 26 minutes to go and managed to level the score by the end of regulation. The girls won that game in overtime.
"So they know anything is possible if the stick with it," Murray said. "We are continually working on both individual skills and team skills. We are no longer working on PKs (penalty kicks) because in the finals if the game is tied after the overtimes than the teams are co-champs."
That is different than in earlier rounds of the tournament that require an outright winner. In situations where a game was still tied after overtime, penalty kicks could decide which team advanced to the next stage. Masuk, for instance, defeated East Lyme after penalty kicks in its semifinal Saturday.
Prior to the tournament, Masuk concluded regular season play with an 11-2-2 record.
Avon defeated Pomperaug 3-1 over the weekend to advance to the championship, according to ciac.com. In earlier tournament games, the Falcons defeated Bethel 1-0 in the first round after double overtime, Bunnell 4-0 in the second and Joel Barlow 2-1 in the quarterfinal.
The Falcons completed the NCCC with a 13-1-2 record.
Three players on the team – senior co-captain Catherine Jordan, senior Hunter McCarthy and Sophomore Michaela Marcus – have scored 10 goals each this season. Jordan, McCarthy and goal keeper Kaylan Conrad comprise the three starting seniors on the roster. Conrad, co-captain, has been credited with 12 shutouts defending the Avon net this season. Jordan, a center midfielder, has recorded as many assists as she has goals. Senior co-captain Sarah Betancourt, a defender, has assisted nine of Avon's goals and even scored two of her own.
Murray praised McCarthy and fellow seniors Meredith Beir and Rina Santangelo for their leadership, as well as juniors Caroline Smith, Lauren Miller, Youn Jae Baek, Alexa Lisevick, Melanie Sheppard and Britt Douglass for their major roles in the team's success. He said that a string of sophomores joining the team for the first time – Michaela Marcus, Stephanie Saccoccio, Amanda Holtzman, Chamyiah Rowland, Tara Shayler and Hannah Davey – stepped up this year as part of a solid roster.
Avon and Masuk kick off at 11 a.m. Friday after a day off for Thanksgiving.
"What will make me happy is for my players to play to the best of their abilities and give their best effort. They have already made me happy, everyday has been great this season," Murray said. "This year’s team has been about everyone contributing when their time comes and this must continue for us to play well on Friday in the finals."
The Class L finals for boys and girls are being held at Falcon Field in Meriden at 200 Westfield Road.
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