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Emotional day of wins and losses for Falcons

Four teams in tournament action in one day

AVON, Nov. 11 – Even though it has been 12 months, the loss that the New Canaan field hockey team handed Avon in last year’s Class M semifinals still stung. The Rams scored an early goal and held off a desperate Falcon team, 1-0.

Emily Arciero celebrates after scoring on a penalty stroke with 25:07 left in Avon’s 1-0 win over New Canaan.

This November, only three starters from that 2009 squad were back on the field for the Falcons as No. 4 Avon hosted No. 12 New Canaan in a quarterfinal match on Veteran’s Day. “This has been a rebuilding year,” Avon coach Terri Ziemnicki said.

It took some time but the Falcons were able to keep the visiting Rams at bay until they could score to earn a berth in the Class M semifinals for the third time in the last four years with a 1-0 victory. Avon will face No. 8 Daniel Hand-Madison in the semifinals next week. Hand upset top-seeded Nonnewaug, 1-0 in overtime.

Junior Emily Arciero scored on a penalty stroke with 25:07 remaining in the second half. From that point on, the Falcons played with more confidence.

“After we scored, I think the girls began to believe in themselves,” Ziemnicki said. “I don’t think we were sure of what we could do. This team was playing for last year’s team. They won for last year’s girls.”

The Rams (9-4-1-1), who were playing on grass for the first time this year, were able to move the ball but they struggled to get shots off on Avon goalie Nicole Andrew, who earned her 11th shutout of the season.

Defenders Rachel Neuhoff, Julia Plourde and Samatha Welch did a good job of challenging the Ram players. Midfielders Cassie Sahl, Arciero, Sydney Hagan and Mary Margaret Stoll were able to harass the New Canaan players and move the ball upfield.

Forwards Elle Crane, Olivia Mason and Maddy Riccardi were able to keep enough pressure on goal. The Falcons (13-1-1-2) had nine shots on net. Avon earned its penalty shot when a New Canaan defender stepped on the ball to keep it out of the net.

For Arciero, it was her team-leading 14th goal of the season. Arciero, Mason and Crane each had goals in Avon’s second round victory over East Lyme, 3-0.

Avon is seeking its first trip to the state finals since 1998 when they fell in the Class S finals to Canton. Avon last won a state title when they won back-to-back Class S titles in 1983-84.

GIRLS SOCCER beats Farmington in tournament: Catherine Martin scored off a volley from Sarah Geraldi with 18:48 gone in the second half to help lift the No. 4 Falcons to a 2-0 victory over No. 20 Farmington in a Class L second round game at Fisher Meadows. Jenna Donahue added an insurance goal for the Falcons about 10 minutes later. Avon goalie Kaylan Conrad made one save to earn the shutout. Avon (14-2-1) outshot the visiting Indians, 9-2. The Falcons will face either Berlin or Hand on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Fisher Meadows in the quarterfinals.

BOYS SOCCER eliminated on penalty kicks: For the Falcons, it was another agonizing defeat in the CIAC’s Class L tournament. In 2008, Wethersfield ousted Avon in the semifinals by a 1-0 score. A year ago, Brookfield sent the Falcons home after a 4-1 quarterfinal defeat that was much closer than the final score indicated.

In boys soccer, the Falcons dropped a 2-1 decision to New Canaan on penalty kicks.

This year, New Canaan rallied with a goal with 14 minutes left in regulation and then prevailed in a shootout, 3-2 to eliminate the NCCC champion Falcons in a game at Fisher Meadows. After giving up goals on Avon’s first two penalty kicks, Ram goalie Scott Levene made three consecutive saves to secure the victory.

“We kept pounding away at them but if you don’t put in your chances, you can’t win,” Avon coach Patrick Mulligan said. “They had two opportunities in the second half and scored on one. Soccer is a cruel, cruel game.

Drew Montano gave Avon the 1-0 lead on a pretty goal with 29 minutes left in the game off a pass from Max Leopold. Montano, a junior, finished the season with a team-leading 14 goals.

But despite outshooting the Rams, 18-10, Avon couldn’t add another score. “I think we did what we had to do except for kicking the ball into the back of the net. We were creative and we played some good soccer,” Mulligan said. “But you have to kick them in.”

New Canaan tied the game at 1-1 on a goal by Steve Valentz with 14 minutes left.

In the shootout, Montano and Kevin Janson each scored but the first two Rams shooters also connected leaving the score at 2-2 after two rounds. In round three, Levene deflected the shot by Avon’s Conor Lanahan into the air and New Canaan’s shot by Jon-Luke Ferrandino was hard enough to deflect off the hands of Falcon goalie Alex Andrews and into the net for a 3-2 lead.

In round four, Levene got two hands on a shot from Avon’s Jon Hla and Levene scored with a shot into the right corner to give the Rams a 3-2 lead. In the fifth and final round, Levene deflected away the shot from Jameson Neserella to secure the victory for New Canaan.

“We didn’t anticipate going out this early. We were prepared. We controlled the possession,” Mulligan said. “All of that work you put in…and to have it end like this is sad and frustrating.

VOLLEYBALL advances to quarters: No. 9 Avon advanced into the Class L quarterfinals with a thrilling 3-2 win over Platt-Meriden. After winning the first two games, the Falcons dropped two straight before rallying for a 15-10 win in game five. Avon won 25-22, 25-16, 12-25, 19-25, 15-10. The Falcons (14-5) get to face No. 1 Darien in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Darien.

 

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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