The St. Joseph girls soccer team saw some oh so close moments go by the boards when the Cadets lost a 2-1 (9-8 on penalty kicks) decision to Wilton High in the second round of the Class LL state tournament in Trumbull on Wednesday.
The No. 11 Warriors, whom the Cadets defeated 3-1 during the regular season, advanced to host No. 19 Simsbury, a 1-0 (6-4 penalty kicks) winner over third-seeded Southington in Friday’s quarterfinals beginning at 2 o’clock.
For coach Jack Nogueira’s sixth-seeded Cadets, winners of three consecutive state titles, this marks the end of an overall stellar campaign.
“I thought we should have won the game in regulation but it didn’t happen,” Nogueria said. “Credit Wilton. They played hard defensively and they got the job done. We felt in the first half we took it to them, could have been up 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0.”
St. Joseph took a 1-0 lead into the half on Sophia Lowenberg’s goal, set up by a Maddie Fried free kick.
The Cadets saw all of their other opportunities miss, get stopped by Wilton keeper Erynn Floyd or — in one instance — get blocked on the goal line. Wilton defender Janet Johnson denied what appeared to be a sure thing net-finder with a stop off a corner kick in the second half.
Strong defensive play, by Caroline Sheehan, Hailey Vechiarelli, Helen Mahoney and Lowenburg, helped keep the Warriors off the scoreboard until Ashley Carbonier cashed in on a cross pass from Alexandra Dejana with just 10:27 left.
Wilton applied some late-regulation pressure and both teams created chances in each of a pair of 10-minute overtimes.
Then came soccer’s version of toss-up: Penalty kicks.
Both teams converted on each shot in the first round of five.
In the second set, after both teams converted on their initial shots, the Cadets missed over the top and Wilton answered with a goal.
Both squads scored in the third and fourth rounds.
Then Cadet Ashley Collins saw her well-placed kick denied by a diving Floyd, ending the contest.
St. Joe’s goalie Grace Hickey made six saves and Flyod stopped nine shots.
Scoring PK’s for the Cadets were Jessica Mazo, Vechiarelli, Nina Pizzicarola, Lowenburg, Fried, Mahoney, Caroline Sheehan and Annie Stook.
“When you lose a game in this manner it’s very demoralizing for a coach and it’s very demoralizing for a group of girls, but we’ve got to look at the positives,” Nogueira said.
The Cadets went 13-1-2 in the regular season with a lineup that features primarily underclassmen and a roster with only four seniors: Dori Grasso, Mazo, Amanda Flynn and Sierra Clark.
“I’m proud of what we did as a group. We’re young,” Nogueira said.