With all due respect to their opponents this season, the South Windsor High girls soccer team has faced three top-tier teams - Suffield, Northwest Catholic and Glastonbury - in their first 11 matches.
In all three games the Bobcats did not get the result they were looking for, losing each one of them.
It was little consolation that the losses to Suffield and Northwest Catholic did not count, as they were pre-season affairs.
So the question still lingered: for all of their talent, just how good are the Bobcats?
South Windsor more than answered that question Friday, as it defeated a previously unbeaten Tolland High 1-0 in Tolland.
It was the signature victory that South Windsor (7-1) had been looking for in the first half of the season.
“Huge” was how Bobcats head coach Ed Duclose described it. “We needed a quality win against a top five team. Tolland is absolutely outstanding. They are so well coached and really talented. We needed this at the turn, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Goal scorers, often justifiably, get the most press, and Amy McConnell’s 10th minute strike is the kind coaches look for in their forwards: decisive, lethal and accurate. It turned out to be the game’s only goal.
“[McConnell is] so creative, she’s going to find a way to get the ball on her foot,” Duclos said. “She’s going to find a way to finish. … She plays so many sports well, she understands the strategy.”
But the true story Friday for the Bobcats (7-1) lay in their defense, which displayed quality and resilience against a relentless, spread out Eagles’ attack that applied constant pressure for the last 25 minutes of the match.
The defenders all stood out - covering for each other, clearing out threats and generally disrupted a formidable Tolland (7-1) offense.
Katherine Comeau, Tori Russo, Lauren Dansereau, Julia Galvin and Auna Harvey were all in the mix, layering coverage in the back and stifling the Eagles’ front line of Hannah Fay, Jenny Jacobs and Mariah Elliott.
When Eagles managed to fire off a shot on goal, Hanna Basile (13 saves) displayed a poise and confidence that belied her freshman status.
Basile made a diving save off an Elliot shot directed at the near post in the first half. In the second, Basile made a terrific decision to run out and punch the ball away from Elliot, who would have been in the clear otherwise.
South Windsor head coach Ed Duclos was clearly pleased with the effort.
“The toughness of our back four, the toughness of our holding midfielders, it was amazing,” Duclos said. “And out freshman goalie? She sure doesn’t look like a freshman goalie.”
Tolland may have lost, but head coach Ken Boucher was not ready to concede that the better team had won.
“I just think we were better,” Boucher said. “We can’t come out in the first half of every game like we’re slow and relaxed. But in the first half, we gave it to them. … In the second half, the ball stayed down in [South Windsor’s final third]. They packed it in and we were pounding them. … We outshot them, we had more opportunities. It was just the first half.”
Boucher was hoping, however, that the loss would have a positive impact on his side.
“We have to start every game like we did in the second half.”
Correction: the original article left out Auna Harvey as a defender for South Windsor. We regret the omission.