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Week of Sept. 11: Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling records 200th career win

Woodstock Academy girls soccer coach Dennis Snelling wasn't going to tell anyone about it.

His sister, and assistant coach, Jenn Bruneau, had other ideas.

The day after the Centaurs girls soccer team defeated Ledyard, 2-0, last week the team had an impromptu party following practice in honor of Snelling's 200th career victory.

"It means I've worked with a lot of good kids over the 15 years that I've been coaching at the varsity level," Snelling said of reaching the career milestone. "It really is more about their effort. I've tried to motivate them to play their best but a lot of times, they show up ready to play. These kids are no different. They're just hard-working kids."

Snelling started his career at Woodstock Academy, coaching his way through the boys soccer ranks by coaching at the varsity and JV level and then as a varsity assistant.

He wanted to be a varsity head coach so he took the boys job at Tourtellotte High before returning to The Academy to take over the girls program.

He remembers first going to the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament for a first time just to accompany one of his players who was named an honorable mention league All-Star.

Now, it's an annual ritual.

And usually, his team is in the thick of it.

"The ECC tournament victories are very exciting and we've had three in the last five years. It's a lot of fun, a different kind of emotion when you beat everyone and you are the best team in your conference. Those are pretty high on the list," Snelling said when asked for his best memories of his tenure.

Junior Leah Costa called Snelling, "the Dad of the team."

"I'm extremely happy for Coach," Costa said. "He has done great."

Woodstock Academy senior keeper Rebecca Nazer was pleased that she was a part of the team that helped Snelling reach the special number.

"He's a great coach, always pushes us to play the best we can. He was saying that it's mainly the players that got him the 200 wins. I think he really had an impact on that as well," the senior said.

It took a while for the Centaurs to get started against Ledyard last week.

Ledyard chose to play back and look for a chance for a quick counter.

“They really stayed back and we had talked about that before the game. Coach said he had watched film, told us how they played back and how we had to get passes and play smart. We had to play our game,” junior Juliet Allard said.

It took some time for that to happen.

The two teams played scoreless soccer for 60 minutes until Allard got a break and drilled home her first two goals of the season within 30 seconds of one another to account for the two-goal victory.

In addition to the Ledyard strategy, the match also was played on the Woodstock Academy South Campus grass field.

“That takes away our speed somewhat. We also hadn’t played in a few days. We just had to figure out how to pass through them and not rely on the long-ball breakaways,” Snelling said.

One thing the Centaurs did want to see become more effective was their set plays.

“We’ve been really wanting to get goals off corners for a long time because it’s something that we have not done so well,” Allard said.

With 29 minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation, Kendall McCromack got the opportunity for a corner from the right side of the Ledyard goal.

The senior sent it into the box where it found the head of Macy Rawson.

Ledyard keeper Jess Dudley made the original save.

“I saw where Macy headed it and it was kind of out in the open for everyone and I was like, ‘this has got to go in’. I just hooked it and it went over the goalie,” Allard described.

The junior was far from done.

Just 27 seconds later, the ball found her again.

“It was wide open space, no one was coming at me and I decided I might as well take the shot. There was no one there and we had been shooting only inside the box and Coach wants us to shoot more from the outside,” Allard said.

She took a pass from sophomore Kaylee Saucier and converted from 25-yards plus to give the Centaurs their winning margin.

The defense did the rest.

“Our defense is doing amazing especially considering we lost Magda(lena Myslenski to graduation) who was great. She was a big loss, “ Allard said. “The defense is doing really well. They’re clearing the ball, making sure it’s getting out of there and Becca (Nazer), our goalie, is making sure it’s getting out of there, too, and making some amazing saves. I’m really happy with the defense.”

So is Snelling.

“Freya (Robbie) and Becca have great chemistry from last year and we defend the ball really well,” Snelling said.

Woodstock Academy (2-0-1, 0-0-1 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I) finished off the week with a scoreless tie against Stonington Friday at the Bentley Athletic Complex.

The two teams who competed in last year's ECC championship match gave no quarter in a physical contest.

The two No. 10's, Costa for Woodstock Academy and Iliana Rashleigh for the Bears had the best chances of the day.

Costa just missed on a shot where she had an opening on the right side of the net but saw it miss by about five feet in the first half.

She put one off the post in the second half against the team she played for as a freshman two years ago.

"I think it was very emotional for me. I don't like playing against people that I know. It was hard but we all fought through it as a team," Costa said.

Rashleigh put one off the post in the first half for the Bears (1-1-2) and almost ended the match early in the first overtime but her shot clanged off the crossbar.

"I don't even know how those shots (didn't go in) but I will take it," Nazer said.