Northwestern boys soccer falls to Waterford on PKs in Class M first round

WINSTED — For two 40-minute halves and a pair of 10-minute overtime halves, the drums of a final penalty-kick tiebreaker beat softly behind a pair of evenly matched teams in a Class M boys soccer first-round game at Northwestern High School on Tuesday afternoon.

When neither No. 18 Waterford (10-7) from the ECC or No. 15 Northwestern (9-5-3) from the Berkshire League could find a goal off golden opportunities, good defenses and stellar goalkeeping, the Lancers’ five straight PKs by Colin Palazzo, Donovan Bousquet, Giovanni Ortiz, Matias Arcelus and Jeremy Gibbs translated into a 5-3 PK advantage for a 1-0 win.

Alternating shots, Northwestern’s Dante Bottalico, Aidan O’Neill and Connor Cichocki made their PKs but another one bounced off the right goalpost.

When Gibbs stepped up to the line with a 4-3 lead, the Lancers’ leading scorer with 14 goals for the season knew he had the game on the edge of his left foot.

“We’ve been practicing PKs all week,” he said. “I was confident they made the right decision putting me in at No. 5. If we needed a goal by then, I would get it.”

His kick shot into the right side of the net for the clincher.

“Both teams played well,” Waterford coach Josh Bessette said.

“This is what a 15-18 game should be,” Highlanders coach Andy Campbell said. “When you get to the tournament, everybody’s good. It always helps to have a little luck, but you have to make your own luck.”

While the Lancers celebrated their hard-earned win, the bitter irony for Northwestern might have come down to the size of the goal frame.

The PK shot an inch to the right into the goalpost reflected what could have been an early lead in regulation when a Highlanders shot bounced off the Waterford crossbar eight minutes into the game.

Still, there were many more chances on both sides.

Time after time, Northwestern defenders’ foot skills turned a Lancers charge back upfield, only to find a pass into the Waterford box surrounded by Lancers defenders but no red shirts.

When Waterford forwards broke through the Highlanders defense, shot after shot was wide of the mark.

In the midst of it, Lancers goalkeeper Tim Silva and Northwestern’s Steele Brobston played the best opportunities well.

Midway through the second half, Brobston withstood back-to-back golden Waterford chances, batting away a hard shot by Dylan Agsalud when the Lancer advanced on him alone, then holding onto another hard shot off a would-be clear.

Eight minutes later, as pressure mounted from both teams in the scoreless deadlock, Silva had his shot at a similar flurry, falling on one Highlanders shot, then leaping for another 28 minutes into the half.

Seconds later, Brobston dove for a save at the other end.

“(Brobston) played his best game of the season,” Campbell said.

With two seconds left in overtime, Waterford’s Silva glanced a hard Northwestern shot just off his fingertips and over the net.

This time, Gibbs might feel lucky for his chance to be a hero — luck made by goalkeeper Silva.



(5-3 PKs)

WATERFORD 0 0 0 0 (5) — 1

NORTHWESTERN 0 0 0 0 (3) — 0

PKs: W — Colin Palazzo; Donovan Bousquet; Giovanni Ortiz; Matias Arcelus; Jeremy Gibbs. NW — Dante Bottalico; Aidan O’Neill; Connor Cichocki. Shots: 12-9 Northwestern. Saves: W — Timothy Silva 7. NW — Steele Brobston 6.

Records: Waterford 10-7. Northwestern 9-5-3.