Update, Nov. 19, 1:34 a.m.
Avon will take on Farmington, who beat Bethel 1-0, after Thanksgiving.
The two teams met in the Class L semifinals two years ago and Avon won. They also scrimmaged over the summer.
“They’re always a good team. They always come out strong,” Avon senior forward Erica Primovic said. “A lot of the girls were saying they’ve gotten really good this year so they’re really nervous if we have to play Farmington, as well.”
Avon High School girls varsity soccer will have its third consecutive go at a Class L state championship next week after defeating RHAM, the team that beat them in the finals last year.
“This was a good win,” said Avon senior Erica Primovic, who scored the winning goal in the 1-0 game. “I knew it was going to be a tough game and I was really nervous about it, but the one thing that gave me hope was that my good buddy Kristen Brett graduated last year. She was their sweeper and she was phenomenal. Without her back, I knew we had a shot at breaking their defense down. They did a great job, though.”
Primovic was on the attack early in the game and won a 50-50 ball in Avon’s box. As she cut it back in the box to get a better angle to cross the ball to teammates in the middle, she was tripped six yards from the goal line. That gave Avon a penalty kick, which Primovic sent the ball to her right into the top corner of the goal for the winning goal just over 18 minutes into the game.
“I’d rather win it with another goal or two, but we’ll take it,” Avon head coach Jim Murray said Friday after the semifinal game at Middletown High School’s turf field. “No more PKs hopefully.”
Avon’s win comes off an extended period of school cancellations due to power outages and roads ridden with fallen trees and downed wires after the Oct. 29 snowstorm. Fisher Meadows was soaked with melting snow. The district didn’t return to school until Nov. 10, the day the tournament started. It was originally supposed to start earlier in the week.
“That break killed us,” Murray said. “We were off for a week and a half and didn’t practice and it showed that first game against E.O. Smith, but we played well today and well enough to win.”
Yet Avon’s record remained strong at 15-1-2. Avon had a bye the first round, defeated E.O. Smith 2-1 in penalty kicks Saturday and beat Berlin 1-0 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, all at Fisher Meadows.
“I think we’re getting better progressively," Primovic said. "I think it kind of hit us that we constantly need to work together as a team and we need individual players. We did extremely well with that, whereas sometimes we just kick the ball, but we did very well with passing to feet today and we just need to continue doing that.”
Since Avon is used to playing on grass, the exposure to the turf field Friday night has made practicing quicker touches and faster ball distribution priorities.
“RHAM seemed to play a little better on it than us…. The pace of the game was a little quicker for us,” Murray said. “We’re not used to playing on this turf. It was a little quick for us. RHAM seemed to play a little better on it than us. We’ll have to make those adjustments for the next game.”
Primovic had a different take on turf fields.
“Personally I think we work better on turf. It forces us to pass, I feel like it works well,” Primovic said.
However, Murray noticed that with the turf, RHAM defenders were able to close Avon’s offense down quickly. Avon still triggered 14 shots to RHAM’s 2.
About midway through the second period Avon had a second opportunity to score off a pass to Hunter McCarthy, which flew with fast pace toward the goal, but hit the post.
RHAM continued to pressure Avon in the second half, particularly in the last moments of the game. With E.O. Smith’s goal in the last seven seconds of regulation in the second round, Avon has been focusing even more on a strong defense in the final moments. Murray was proud of his defenders, including seniors Molly Brown, Sarah Gerali and Katie Bentivegna on the outside. He praised the work of junior Sarah Betancourt, who was marking RHAM’s senior star attacker Sydney Aldrich.
“It’s a great team and it’s just been wonderful for three years and we had a fourth year we lost in the semifinals, but three years in Class L, three finals, I’ll take it,” Murray said.
Murray is hoping to play at Middletown again because he likes the venue, but the location, date and time of the final are to be determined. Avon will either face Farmington or Bethel in the championship, which will fall after Thanksgiving on Nov. 25 or 26.
“I’d love to play Farmington," Murray said. "That’s my hometown and we have a great rivalry, great fan base. I think it would be a good game. Who knows who will win that one. Bethel’s a good side as well.”