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Class L state tournament: Centaurs claim 1st round victory

It’s never easy to have just won a tournament championship and then, get ready for another one.

“I think we came out a little flat because we were so happy about winning (the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 tournament championship),” said Woodstock Academy senior Grace Gelhaus. “I think we really stepped it up in the second half and it all came together.”

The Centaurs, seeded 11th in the Class L state tournament, scored four goals in just 16 minutes in the second half to end the season for No. 22 Windsor as they outscored the Warriors, 5-1, at the Bentley Athletic Complex Tuesday.

The win sends the Centaurs into a Class L second-round match against sixth-seed Daniel Hand on Thursday in Madison at 5 p.m.

“It should get tougher. It’s just that kind of tournament. You play stacked up games on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and it’s just who has the most energy left for these tough games,” Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling said.

The Tigers advanced with a 2-0 win over No. 27 Rockville Tuesday.

The Centaurs (13-4-2) saw the Warriors exert their will a bit in the first half as they took seven shots at the Woodstock Academy goal.

Centaurs’ keeper Rebecca Nazer was up to the task as she made four saves on the ones that came close.

And despite Windsor’s pressure in the offensive end, it was Woodstock Academy who led at the half.

Gelhaus scored 22 minutes, 47 seconds into the contest when a header by Bella Mawson found the senior’s foot. Gelhaus took the ball in, forced Windsor keeper Olivia Rosario to commit to come out and when she did so, put it over the top of her for the 1-0 lead.

Windsor (6-6-5) didn’t quit.

Just 4:35 into the second half, freshman Kambryl Armstrong, who had an impressive foot, rifled in the tying goal for the Warriors.

“It was definitely a wake up call,” Gelhaus said. “After we scored, I think we let up a little bit and they took advantage and capitalized on it.”

The momentum didn’t take long to leave the Windsor sideline, however.

Just under four minutes later, Gelhaus took a pass from Leah Costa and beat Rosario again to give Woodstock Academy the lead back.

Just about 10 minutes later, a mistake by a Windsor defender who kicked the ball over the back line resulted in a corner for the Centaurs.

Junior Emma Massey sent the ball in with her right foot, it hit Rosario and bounced into the net for a 3-1 Woodstock Academy lead.

It was the junior’s first career varsity goal.

“We’ve been watching Emma work hard for three years and she’s finally getting some more minutes. She has that hard strike with her right foot and got it into the right spot. It was great to see her score. We’ve had a lot of first-time scorers this year,” Snelling said.

The floodgates opened after that with Gelhaus finishing up the hat trick from 35 yards out.

“I don’t know how it happened. I had a little luck on my side and it just flew over the goalie, thankfully,” Gelhaus said with a laugh.

It was the 19th goal of the season for the senior.

“I think until someone can contain her, we can go as far as we can in the States with someone like her. Whether she scores early or at any point in a close game, we know she can score any time she gets the ball,” Snelling said.

Costa finished things up just 32 seconds later with her 10th goal of the season as she outworked two defenders by herself and lifted it up and into the upper right-hand corner from inside the 6-yard box.

The defense was also stellar, giving up just three shots to Windsor in the second half.

“They had their moments, they were good at pressing but we held our own in the back. We were good under pressure, with covering each other. We had each other’s backs,” sophomore defender Freya Robbie said. “We’re going to keep working like that.”