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Class L state tournament: Centaurs season comes to a close in Simsbury

There is a common thought among all teams who make the state tournament in any sport.

Games, generally, get harder as teams advance.

Such was the case for the 20th -seeded Woodstock Academy girls soccer team.

The Centaurs traveled to Simsbury on Wednesday to meet the fourth-seeded Trojans and saw their season come to a close with a 3-0 loss.

“They had a lot of high-level players and a professional coach. Those two things go well together. We were right with them but they had a lot more chances,” Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling said.

Simsbury scored halfway through the first half and then added another 6:48 left to play in the opening half.

“It was one of those games where you’re happy that it’s close at halftime and you try and make adjustments to see if you can get back in it. We had a better second half defensively,” Snelling said.

The Trojans added a third goal midway through the second half but senior keeper Rebecca Nazer was solid in front of the net, making 10 saves.

Woodstock Academy finished its season with a 9-8-3 record.

“I thought the season was OK,” Snelling said. “We needed to be more organized sooner. At the end of the season is when we were at our best but it took awhile to get there because of the class we lost (to graduation),” Snelling said.

The nice thing for Snelling and the Centaurs is that the senior class is not as large this year.

“It’s a small graduating class so we will have a big returning class, hopefully, already at the next level and we will be able to work on soccer-related things rather than who plays what role. It’s more likely that we will be able to pick up where we left off next year than it was this year,” Snelling said.

It was a day to remember for Woodstock Academy’s Leah Costa on Monday.

The junior girls soccer player was beaming after she scored all three goals for the 20th-seeded Centaurs in a 3-0 win over 13th-seeded Killingly in a Class L first round state tournament match in Killingly.

Prior to the match, Costa had gone to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles and passed her driving test, earning her driver’s license.

“That’s like a four-goal game,” Snelling said with a laugh. “Coming off the license test, going right into scoring goals, it was definitely another level for her so if it takes getting your license, maybe we will have to get her another one for Wednesday (for the second-round match with Simsbury).”

For a while on Monday, it looked like the match at Killingly would come down to who snuck one in.

The Centaurs clearly had the advantage as they doubled up on shots, 10-5, but nothing found the back of the net.

The back-and-forth led to a scoreless first half.

Killingly (10-7-1) was then just inches away from going up by a goal midway through the second half.

A corner by Killingly senior Laura Farquhar drifted across the net to the foot of teammate Spencer Chviek.

Fortunately for the Centaurs, senior Taylor Lamothe was there.

“My life just flashed before my eyes,” Lamothe said with a laugh. “I saw it coming in and I knew what I had to do because that’s my job , I was on that side of the post. I knew I had to kick it out. I tapped it away. It was close but (Woodstock Academy keeper) Rebecca (Nazer) luckily grabbed it.”

How big a play was it?

In the scheme of things, huge.

“Had they gone up, 1-0, they would have been able to sit back and make it really difficult for us to score since all of our goals came on through balls through the defense. Had they been able to sit back a little further with a one-goal lead, it would have been really tough,” Snelling said.

Fortunately for the Centaurs, Costa found the range just moments later.

“I felt like the whole 80 minutes that she looked like she was on a different level than the rest of the field. You could really see her speed, desire and athleticism right from the whistle. It was just a matter of the rest of the team keeping up with her. She looked like the best player on the field,” Snelling said.

Costa took a pass from Bella Mawson and rifled a rising shot from about 30 yards out to put the Centaurs up, 1-0, with 21 minutes, nine seconds left in regulation.

“Extremely concerned,” Costa said when asked if she was afraid the scoreless match would come down to penalty kicks, something that didn’t work out so well for the Centaurs versus Waterford in an Eastern Connecticut Conference semifinal.

“That was a great shot,” Snelling said. “You could almost tell as soon as she hit it that it was going in or, at least, be on goal. You can see the (shots) that are going to rise and it looked like it would be hard to save. It was a big one.”

Costa made it a 2-0 advantage just a little over seven minutes later when Kendall McCormack sent the ball from the left to the middle. While it may not have gone to her intended target, it did get to Costa on the right side who converted the insurance goal.

The last tally came with just under three minutes to play when Freya Robbie made a pretty pass to Costa who made a run on goal and posted the hat trick.

“Freya played the first half of the year on defense, kept us from giving up goals and then we got some confidence in other players in the back and got her into the midfield where she can make plays like that. It’s been the key to our second half of the season,” Snelling said.

Costa finished with 14 goals on the season.

“I’m excited about the hat trick. The team really worked hard for it. It wasn’t just me, it was a team effort,” Costa said.