Facing an unbeaten non-conference foe, Pomperaug of Southbury, the host Shelton High girls soccer team stood to get a good battle on Saturday night. As it turned out, the visiting Panthers were the ones to face their toughest challenge of the season.
The Gaelettes put together a tremendous 80-minute effort to not only knock the Panthers from the unbeaten ranks, but did so in thoroughly convincing fashion, winning 5-1.
Pomperaug, which fell to 12-1-1, had given up no more than two goals in a game this season. Shelton scored twice on the Panthers in the opening half, struck only 42 seconds into the second half, and poured it on en route to improving to 7-3-1.
Shelton’s players wore special pink uniforms as the team recognized Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Kathryn Arena scored twice and assisted another tally, and Leya Vohra Kelly Hurd and Kylee Opper all scored in the win. Shelton goalkeeper Shelby Offord made seven saves.
“It’s crazy,” Arena, a captain, said of her team dominating a team that has been mostly dominant this fall.
Arena said the theme “family” helps carry the Gaelettes, and that this game was an example of the Shelton squad coming together like one.
“I think this game really proves what Shelton soccer is,” Arena said. “Everyone had a solid game – all the way from the back line up to the forwards.”
“I’m just really proud. We really proved what it means to play with heart and passion,” added Panek, also a captain.
Arena, a midfielder, pointed out that the team tapped its depth with some recent injuries occurring. Midway through the first half of the Pomperaug clash, Kristen Willey left the game with a knee injury, but Shelton coach Marvin Miller is hopeful Willey will be back in short time.
Pomperaug scored first but the Gaelettes answered when Panek assisted Arena to knot the score.
Everything that started left went right for the Gaelettes the rest of the way. Shelton moved the ball down the left wing and generated a corner kick opportunity late in the opening half. The Panthers broke up the chance but the ball went out over the end line, giving Shelton another corner. Arena hit a line-drive with her left foot that Vohra one-timed into the lower far side of the goal for a 2-1 Shelton lead with 12-plus minutes to play in the half.
Less than a minute out of the halftime break, the Gaelettes got a little breathing room. Hurd made a few moves to get past defenders and took a shot from a sharp angle on the left side that was deflected by a Pomperaug defender and sailed into the far side of the net.
Less than midway through the half, the Gaelettes struck yet again as Maggie Howard possessed the ball deep into the left corner and crossed. The ball was deflected and Opper was in position to clean up the rebound, making it a 4-1 game.
Elizabeth Herlihy sent a nice pass to Panek in the right corner to help generate another corner kick opportunity. Arena hooked a left-footed corner blast inside the near post for her second tally, making it 5-1 with 17:50 to go.
“Tonight was a test of our character and we passed,” Miller said. “The rest of the season is going to be a test of our fitness and durability.”
Miller notes that the Gaelettes have a jam-packed schedule the rest of the way with five more games to be played through the Oct. 24 regular season-finale against Cheshire.
The Shelton coach wasn’t surprised by the outcome against Pomperaug, noting “When we’re on our ‘A’ game we’re a very, very good team.”
Miller added that with so many games in so few days the rest of the way, his team will have to keep up the high level of play to carry momentum into the postseason.
“We absolutely need to be playing good ball,” Miller said.