Girls soccer: Skoronski lifts Shelton to victory

After settling for ties in each of its first three games of the campaign, Shelton High’s girls soccer team came from behind to earn a win at home on Thursday night, edging non-conference foe Cromwell High, 3-2, at Finn Stadium.

“We needed the confidence. We needed to know we could finish a game,” said Shelton head coach Marvin Miller, whose team had opportunities to come out on top in each of the games it has played, making for a frustrating unbeaten start to the season until Thursday’s final whistle.

Kaleigh Panek played a key role in the match winner, knocking the ball loose from Cromwell goalkeeper Seraphina Mckiernan as she tried to get a handle on it. Sarah Skoronski was there to boot the ball into the back of the net with 10:26 left.

Shelton fell behind 2-1 at halftime, but came through in the second half to improve to 1-0-3.

Kathryn Arena tied the game almost exactly a minute after hitting the crossbar on a free kick from 20 yards out, and just two minutes after teammate Kaleigh Panek drilled a shot of her own off the top bar after getting behind the defense.

On her second opportunity, Arena took a pass from Panek, shielded the ball from a defender and pulled it back to turn and set up her shot before putting in a low net-finder with 32:01 to play.

Shelton starting goalkeeper Courtney Litts made four saves in the opening half. Shelby Offord played the second half and saw little action as her team kept the ball on Cromwell's side of the field almost start to finish.

“It just felt amazing,” Arena said of tying the game and helping her team win. “Because we got off to a really slow start in the first half. We really needed this. After three ties we needed this to boost our confidence, to boost our self-esteem.”

The Gaelettes had the better of the play in both halves on Thursday.

“We dominated but we were making a lot of poor touches and choices with the ball, so we weren’t effective with it,” Miller said of his team’s first half performance.

The talk at halftime was about better decision making, ball control, and not letting up. He said the theme of the season is to ‘Be the best version of yourself you can be,’ and that his team did a nice job of playing its best after halftime.

“We started making better use of the chances we had,” Miller said of the second-half turnaround.

Shelton fell behind 1-0 when Cromwell executed a chance off a free kick with 13:17 to go in the first half. The Gaelettes answered with a direct kick goal, only about a minute later, when Juliane Niedzwiecki placed a shot perfectly out of the reach of Mckiernan and under the crossbar, from about 30 yards out.

Cromwell went back ahead with just under six minutes left in the half on what Miller thought was another breakdown defensively, in which his team didn’t mark the opposition well enough.

Shelton had lots of chances in the opening 40 minutes.

Panek used her speed to get a one-on-one chance, but Mckiernan charged out to the top of the 18-yard box and blocked her shot. Earlier in the opening half, Panek got deep and tried to cross to Daisey Dufour inside the 18, and had her pass deflect off a defender and into the arms of Mckiernan.

Shelton peppered the Cromwell goal throughout the night, totaling 26 shots, many of which were on target. For a while, it seemed as if the Gaelettes were destined for another hard-luck tie, or perhaps a defeat.

“We knew it was there; we had opportunities,” said defender Alyson Yakowicz, who made some key plays in the back of her team’s chances to win in the first few games. “It feels amazing (to come away with a victory).”