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Week 8: Centaurs clinch ECC title; win on Senior Day

It was not expected.

But it was welcomed.

The Woodstock Academy Centaurs clinched the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I regular season crown with a 3-1 win over East Lyme Monday.

“We started to figure it out and knew we would be competitive but I would think we would all be lying if we said we expected to win the league and end up in the ECC tournament. I think that was a surprise – a good surprise. We will see how far we can get in the tournaments,” said Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling.

It was the first win over the Vikings for the Centaurs since Oct.26, 2018 and meant they finished with a 5-1 record in Division I.

“It was so special. I can’t describe the excitement and just how amazing it all is,” said senior Lennon Favreau. “The intensity of that game was just unmatched for us.”

It was just the first of good things to happen in the week.

On Thursday, the Centaurs blanked Killingly, 1-0, and then went on the road on Saturday and posted a 3-2 victory over Granby to finish 10-4-2 on the season.

The Killingly match was special not only because it was a win over a local rival but because it was also Senior Day.

It’s never easy to win on Senior Day because focus on the game becomes a premium.

“I was really tuned out at the beginning (of the match) because there were a lot of emotions, excitement, sadness, nervousness but we settled down after a couple of minutes,” Favreau said.

Senior Grace Gelhaus has been on fire in the Centaurs current six-match win streak. She has eight goals and six assists in that span and was a key figure in the win over East Lyme..

Gelhaus didn’t score the first goal against the Vikings but she was a part of it.

Her pass to Leah Costa resulted in the eighth goal of the season for the sophomore 10 minutes into the match put the Centaurs up, 1-0.

Just 12 minutes later, Gelhaus made it 2-0 win a goal of her own.

The Vikings did come back to cut the deficit to one just before the half but Gelhaus closed the door.

The senior was awarded a penalty kick and made East Lyme regret the foul in the box as she put it into the back of the net halfway through the second half to account for the winning margin.

“It was a great win for the team. We went in with no pressure on our shoulders. We were just happy to be there, were positive and the whole team came together,” Gelhaus said.

Prior to the match with Killingly at the Bentley Athletic Complex, the Centaurs honored their eight seniors. In addition to Gelhaus and Favreau, Abby Morin, Maya Orbegozo, Paige Owens, Magdalena Myslenski, Fiona Rigney and Gabby Couture were also honored.

“The idea is always to make it a great day for the seniors. All of them have been valuable pieces of the team this year,” Snelling said. “The leadership we have this year is what we will miss the most. We are losing some really key spots up the middle but we have a great group of juniors and sophomores and a few freshmen coming up. We reload this program every year.”

The Centaurs did have the better of the play against Killingly despite what the scoreboard said.

Woodstock Academy took 26 shots at the Killingly goal.

Senior Aryn Nisbet and junior Erica Horne were up to the task as they combined for 11 saves for Killingly.

“They’re intense, they’re smart and are really confident and call for the ball when they want it. It works well for them,” Favreau said of the Killingly keepers.

The Centaurs finally broke through with 14 minutes, 41 seconds to play.

Costa kicked a long ball down field that eluded Gelhaus who was on the run down the middle of the field.

Horne, however, was forced to come out of the net to get to the ball before Gelhaus caught up with it. She only had one choice and that was to kick it.

That kick went straight up into the air.

“There was a lot of back spin on it so I was kind of hoping that it would go my way,” Gelhaus said.

She jumped up, got her head on it and sent it over the top of Horne toward the goal. It found the net just before the Killingly defense was able to knock it aside.

It was the 13th goal of the season for Gelhaus and another gray hair for Snelling.

“There is no pressure on a coach watching a 0-0 game for 60 minutes,” Snelling said with a laugh. “Are we going to win by one? Lose by one? We had decided no overtime, too, (Thursday) so it would have ended 0-0. It was nice to see the girls win on Senior Day. I think we’ve almost doubled our win total from last year. Lots of accomplishments.”

The Centaurs finished up with the non-league win over the Bears.

Woodstock Academy came off the bus a little flat-footed and the hosts took advantage with a goal just three minutes in.

But the Centaurs regrouped and would tie it just seven minutes before the half when Gelhaus sent a direct kick from 28 yards out into the upper left corner.

Both teams scored in the first six minutes of the second half.

Granby made it 2-1 but just a few moments later, Gelhaus took a pass from Freya Robbie to tie the match.

The Centaurs then won it when Gelhaus got the ball to Costa and the sophomore delivered the game-winner with 15:28 to play.

Woodstock Academy begins tournament play on Tuesday when it hosts Bacon Academy in an Eastern Connecticut Conference semifinal match at 2 p.m. at the Bentley Athletic Complex.