Third state title for Cadet booters

Behind goals from Samantha Grasso and Jenna Bike, the St. Joseph High girls soccer team toppled Suffield High, 2-1, to claim the Class LL title at Falcon Field in Meriden.

“It’s a great win for us and a great win for our program,” Cadets’ coach Jack Nogueira. “I’m just very, very happy for the school and for my players.”

Grasso, off of an assist from Bike, opened the scoring with 19:27 left in the first half of Saturday’s championship game at sun-soaked Falcon Field.

“When we started off the season, we had this goal in mind,” said Grasso, who was named the game’s most valuable player. “I can’t even describe the feeling.”

Bike then doubled the third-seeded Cadets’ margin just under two minutes later at 17:30, knifing her way through the Wildcats’ defense and slotting a shot past Suffield keeper Merideth Ouellette.

Brittany Champagne pulled back a late marker for top-seeded Suffield with 9:42 left to play in the game, but St. Joseph held on to capture its first state championship since 2008.

“We knew if we let them score, it was going to a little bit dicey,” Nogueira said. “To their credit, all year long, they played and took care of business.”

The title was St. Joseph’s third state championship overall in girls soccer (2013, 2008 and 2007), as the Cadets capped off an unbeaten season (22-0-1) after falling in last year’s Class M state final to Northwest Catholic.

Suffield, which finished its campaign at 19-1, had conceded just two goals all season entering the state final. St. Joseph matched that mark in 22:30.

“It was definitely the two best teams in the state, all classes,” Wildcats’ coach David Sullivan said.

In the 21st minute, Bike split Suffield’s defense with a sharp through-ball to Grasso. Ouellette charged off of her line, but it was too late. Grasso took a quick touch to the outside, rounded Ouellette, and punched the ball into the back of the net.

Bike got herself on the scoresheet in the 23rd minute, barreling through the Wildcat midfield and splitting the backline. The superlative sophomore then belted a left-footed shot into the back of the net, staking the Cadets to a 2-0 advantage.

“The first half we gave too much respect to Sammy and to Jenna, which you have to,” Sullivan said. “Instead of keeping it tight, we were giving them space. Once we settled down, got in our game the last 25 minutes, that’s what Suffield soccer is about.”

That 2-0 scoreline held for the next 48 minutes. St. Joseph’s defenders, Samantha Lello and Sara Chille on the outside and Sabrina Toole and Cori Scales in the middle, repelled each Suffield advance toward Cadets’ keeper Molly Meehan (four saves).

Adrienne Williams, Marissa Grasso, Alexandra Waizenegger and Bike kept control of the ball in the middle of the park, while Samantha Grasso and Lindsey Savko provided the support up top.

“Our game is about possession,” Nogueira said. “It’s the key to the game for us. We’ve always dictated the game by hanging onto the ball, playing possession and getting our forwards involved.”

The Wildcats finally broke through in the 71st minute, when Champagne beat Meehan to the post with a well-taken strike.

Suffield poured forward looking in vain for the equalizer, but St. Joseph turned back the Wildcats and saw out the game to claim their first state title in five years — fueled by the first-half markers by Bike and Grasso.

“Just to win the game alone, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Grasso said. “To get MVP, I’m really honored. I couldn’t have done it without everyone else on the team, even Leah Lewis, who had an ACL injury and had surgery yesterday. It’s just team work.”

Members of St. Joseph’s Class LL state-championship winning team are Molly Meehan, Sophia Smith, Alexandra Waizenegger, Julia Marino, Clare Duffy, Samantha Grasso, Sabrina Toole, Jenna Bike, Sara Chille, Hanna Errico, Cori Scales, Marissa Grasso, Tiernan McKeown, Megan Kelly, Christina DiCesare, Megan Kelly, Adrienne Williams, Samantha Lello, Sally McHugh, Leah Lewis, Lindsey Savko, Mary Morrisey and Samantha Rudini.