Having won its first three matches by a combined score of 18-1, the South Windsor High girls soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.
It’s match on the road against CCC North rival Manchester High on Monday figured to be the first true test of the year to see whether the Bobcats have the makeup to do something special later this season.
South Windsor High’s 4-1 victory over the Indians answered any question as to whether, barring injuries, the Bobcats are for real.
It wasn’t just that the Bobcats (4-0, 3-0 CCC North) won as how they won - pressing forward from the opening whistle and coming from behind to score four consecutive goals after allowing the opener to Indians’ forward Anna Manser in the 11th minute.
Manser’s goal came on the counterattack off a perfectly placed through ball from Ashley Feshler, exposing the soft underbelly of South Windsor’s new 4-3-3 alignment that calls for more attacking and possession.
Instead of hanging their heads or losing their composure, as they might have done last year when the defense yielded just four goals all year in a more conservative 4-4-2 alignment, the Bobcats collected themselves and moved on.
“Last year prided itself on not giving up goals,” South Windsor head coach Ed Duclos said. “You’re going to give something up if you go for more offense. You are going to be more susceptible to counterattacks. We understand that."
“What I was most impressed with was what we did after they got that first goal. It was like, ‘OK, we got this. Now let’s go.’ We didn’t fall into a funk. We didn’t put our heads down.”
Sophomore forward Amy McConnell has proven to be a revelation on the right wing this year, providing creativity and scoring punch to the front line alongside senior striker Christine Allard. Against Manchester (2-2), though she missed a golden opportunity in the 21st minute when she fizzed a shot over the crossbar, McConnell showed her quality two minutes later, bringing South Windsor level at 1-1 by maneuvering around Manchester goalkeeper Abbey Costa and finishing with a slow roller into the Indians’ net.
“Everybody knows about [Allard],” Duclos said. “She’s just so creative. You know that athlete that has a nose for the ball and a nose for the goal.”
After the interval, South Windsor went on a scoring binge, with Allard giving the Bobcats a 2-1 lead with a 25-yard laser in the 42nd minute that tucked into the right side of the net.
Allard figured in the South Windsor’s next goal several minutes later, as her cross into the box caromed off a Manchester player into the net after she attempted to clear to give the Bobcats a 3-1 lead.
The own-goal seemed to deflate Manchester for the rest of the game, though the team never quit.
Still, just over a minute later, Rebecca Russo have South Windsor a 4-1 lead in the 48th minute.
Allard further had a chance to add to her tally in the 51st minute when she only had Costa to beat on a breakaway, but she sailed her shot over the crossbar.
Costadid well to keep Manchester in the game by making 10 saves, several of which were spectacular. The Indians had several opportunities later in the game, but the South Windsor defense repelled every chance.
Manchester High head coach Jon Cohn was circumspect in his assessment of the loss.
“Everybody has bad games,” he said. “All players have bad games … I think that we were a little off on our game.”
Costa’s South Windsor counterpart, Hanna Basile, played well, making seven saves.
Duclos, for his part, was thrilled with his team’s effort.
“It shows how far we have come even from the preseason,” he said. “I’m extremely proud and we’ve worked really hard to get here and we still haven’t seen what we’re capable of.”