Morgan Girls’ Soccer Blanks Old Saybrook 2-0 for Second Straight Shoreline Title
Prior to even pounding the pitch for the initial time this fall, the primary goal for the Morgan girls’ soccer team was to retain their throne atop the Shoreline Conference. The Huskies stayed true to their objective in dominant fashion, while showing the rest of Connecticut why they are the class of the conference and a formidable contender to add a state crown to their collection before the campaign concludes.
Following an 11-3-3 regular season mark to secure the Shoreline’s regular-season title, Morgan earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament. After dispatching No. 4 seed Portland by a 1-0 final score in the semifinals on Nov. 2 at Indian River Complex in Clinton, the Huskies returned to the Shoreline Conference Tournament final on Nov. 4 at Portland and defeated 6th-seeded Old Saybrook with a 2-0 shutout to yield the Huskies, now 13-3-3 overall, not only their second-consecutive conference title but also their third in the last five years.
“Winning back-to-back Shoreline titles is an extremely rewarding accomplishment, and it still feels surreal,” said senior captain and midfielder Katie Martin. “I feel so grateful to be a part of such a special team. I am so proud of everyone for working hard all season for this. We have been chasing this feeling ever since it happened last year, and it feels good to know we are back where we belong.”
The Huskies recorded a 1-0 halftime edge in the championship clash against the Rams (now 7-10-3 overall) when junior Glenda Zhiminaicela scored unassisted at the 28:15 juncture of the game. Senior defender Emily Smith then padded the Huskies’ lead with another unassisted tally at 47 minutes and 27 seconds into the contest. Morgan’s stingy defense then held down the fort the remainder of the way to notch its 12th blanking against a league opponent this fall. The Huskies outshot Old Saybrook by a 7-3 margin with Samantha Way making all three stops in net.
“Winning Shorelines again is a huge accomplishment,” said Smith. “No team in the Shoreline has beaten us in two years and, as a defender, it’s something to be proud of. The team chemistry the past two years has been so good. We are all friends, and it’s a great feeling to win on a team with all your friends.”
While praising the efforts on the initial goal against the Rams, Morgan Head Coach Steve Sullivan additionally noted that it was crucial in easing any big-stage anxiety for the Huskies.
“Glenda made a spectacular goal. Every goal she has scored this year is a highlight-reel goal,” said Sullivan. “It was scored in spectacular fashion as well. She had to turn and hit it left footed into the upper-left corner of the net. It was great to get that first score and calm their nerves.”
Sullivan added that the Shoreline Conference trophy was a personal target of his, and he was equally proud of the girls for realizing their dream with a well-rounded club that displayed tenacity and talent at every level.
“Winning Shorelines was one of our goals from early on. They were focused all year long in getting back to the Shoreline finals, and it was one of my personal goals to win it again,” said Sullivan. “We have a tremendous amount of talent; we’ve been blessed with speed for years. We have a young crew of freshmen that saw some varsity time. I give a lot of credit to our defense and goalkeeper. They have been absolutely solid this year. The dominance of the defense stretches to and connects with the midfield. If there is anything dangerous, we have talent in the back that locks it down.”
When facing Portland (6-9-2) to advance to the finals, Morgan also led 1-0 at intermission when Lily Tanner, off an assist from Emily Smith on a corner kick, scored at 19:50 to secure what amounted to the deciding tally. The Huskies put seven shots on goal to the Highlanders’ three. Sullivan’s squad kept it light but equally active during the well-earned bye following the regular
“We placed a lot of emphasis on keeping them fresh, but we did not do long practices,” Sullivan said. “We also mixed up activities and had some fun days, playing soccer volleyball or soccer golf, so they were having fun but also still moving. It kept their minds and bodies fresh.”
In terms of league accolades, Zhiminaicela made First Team All-Shoreline and was named the conference’s Player of the Year. Smith and junior Maeve Madura additionally joined her on the First Team. Senior Caeley Ayer was bestowed with Second Team recognition, and Martin was an Honorable Mention.
The Huskies now turn their attention to the Class S State Tournament, where they again earned themselves a first-round bye as the No. 6 seed. They will host the second round on Nov. 10 against either No. 11 Capital Prep (9-4-2) or No. 22-ranked St. Paul (6-9-1). Morgan is actually a newcomer to the Class S section of the state draw, though they are eagerly anticipating seeing some new adversaries and athletes.
“We are usually in Class M, but we dropped down and are in Class S this year,” said Sullivan. “In Class M, we played Lewis Mills three years in a row. We will be seeing some new teams and faces this time, but the girls are excited about that. They enjoy playing different schools and scouting teams. It is nice to be in Class S, and we are hoping to make a strong run.”
Prior to facing Morgan in Shoreline final, the Old Saybrook girls’ soccer team earned a 2-1 semifinal victory versus Cromwell in a contest that was decided by a 3-2 margin on penalty kicks. The game was tied 1-1 after regulation. Junior Alex Benni scored from senior Kate Brady in the first half to put Old Saybrook up 1-0. Cromwell countered a few minutes later to tie the game at 1-1, which was how it stayed through the end of regulation.
Following two scoreless overtime periods, the game went to penalty kicks to decide the winner. Senior Alexandra Lamotte, senior Abby Colella, senior Elizabeth Ryan, and junior Alex Ling all scored for Old Saybrook in the first round of PKs. Colella also made 1 save.
The first round of PKs finished in a 4-4 tie, sending the game into a second session of PKs. In that second round, sophomore Gretchen Kawecki, sophomore Breleigh Cooke, and Brady all scored for the Rams, while Colella stopped 1 shot as the Rams prevailed by a 3-2 margin in the decisive PK session to win the game and advance to the final.