New Milford boys soccer team comes up short
BROOKFIELD — It was a painful way to end a season that had so much promise.
The New Milford High boys soccer team, once ranked as high as No. 1 in the state in the Class LL/L coaches poll, lost 2-1 last Thursday to Wilton in the second round of the Class LL tournament.
“It was a good year, a good regular season,” said New Milford coach Antony Howard, who will lose 12 seniors to graduation from this year’s team. “When I took this four years ago, I wanted to make New Milford a school that competes and can be one of the top teams in the area. I think we’ve established that. That’s a positive, and I’m happy with that.”
Goalkeeper Adam Llerena made four saves for second-seeded New Milford, but it was a pair of Wilton defensive gems that were the difference in the game.
With Wilton leading 1-0 and New Milford pressing frantically trying to get on the board in their Class LL state tournament second-round game, the Green Wave lined up for a corner kick with less than 20 minutes remaining. New Milford’s Cooper Knight rose out of the crowd in front of the Wilton goal and headed a shot which appeared to be on its way into the top corner of the net — until Wilton’s Matthew Ravichandran seemingly came out of nowhere to head the ball away from the otherwise wide-open net.
“That saved the game, right there,” said David Schneidman, who scored what proved to be the winning goal five minutes later in the 65th minute.
Hunter Barrett scored in the 70th minute to draw New Milford to within one, making Ravichandran’s defensive gem even more important. This was only Ravichandran’s second game back after suffering a broken leg during a game earlier in the season. He was certainly in the right place at the right time on that play.
“My leg was hurting a little bit, and I didn’t think I could jump and win any high balls, so I switched with David Schneidman,” said Ravichandran, one of 23 seniors on the Warriors’ roster. “It was a split-second decision, and turned out to help. I saw (Knight) rise and win the ball. I was in the right place, and I just had to jump up. Thank God it didn’t end up in our goal.”
There were scoring chances at both ends in the first half, but neither team could cash in. Wilton’s Timothy Watson rang a shot off the crossbar from 15 yards out in the 15th minute. Six minutes into the second half, Wilton struck first when Harrison Allers headed home a perfectly placed corner kick by Eric Pelletier. Allers — whose older brother, Chauncey, was the leading scorer on the Western Connecticut State University men’s team as a freshman this fall — set himself up at the far post, and Watson’s kick came right to him.
The Wilton defense — led by starters Nicholas Davatzes, Ravichandran, Patrick Prinner, Watson and goalkeeper Mitchell Bascom — effectively held a potent New Milford attack at bay. Bascom made one save to seal the win. In the fourth minute, he leaped and snared a header from close range by Adrian Lekaj off a throw-in deep in Wilton territory by Knight.
WILTON 2, NEW MILFORD 1
WILTON 0 2 — 2
NEW MILFORD 0 1 — 1
Records: Wilton (12-4-3); New Milford (15-4-0).
Goals: W—Harrison Allers, David Schneidman; NM—Hunter Barrett. Assists: W—Eric Pelletier. Goalies: W—Mitchell Bascom (1 save); NM—Adam Llerena (4 saves).