Milford girls soccer wins Tri-County title

Last fall, the Milford Titans soccer team made history when it earned the coveted title of
Tri-County State Champions for the first time.

First-year coach Tom Sawyer worked the girls to the bone, and assisted on the field by Kevin Degroot, the young team flourished.

Going into this year, the team lost nearly a third of the girls to that inevitable cycle of growing up, and moving on. More than 40 girls showed up for initial tryouts. The team was comprised of 12 returning eighth-graders, two returning seventh-graders, six newcomers, including three seventh-graders, three sixth-graders, and a 6th grade team manager.

The Titans first official game was against Windham. It was a nail biter, but Milford walked away with an opening season win.

Milford rose to the challenge of defending its title with eloquence and a feisty spirit. The Titans sailed through the first two-thirds of the season with consecutive wins and a growing sense of excitement, until the day they faced longtime rival Amherst.

Starting goalie, Katie Lorden, was battling a hand injury that landed her in a cast. In a series of unfortunate mistakes and missed opportunities, Milford took its first loss of the season that day. It was an exciting and well fought match from start to finish but Milford came out on the wrong end of a 1-0 game.

Struggling from the aftermath of defeat, the Titans traveled to Windam for a second encounter. Unable to get the upper hand, they accepted another loss 5-1. But in the greater scope of things, that mishap proved to be the turning point for the Titans.

Sawyer worked the girls harder than ever. He and Degroot had a special way of motivating, challenging and encouraging the team. The girls had so much respect and admiration for them both, it was a pleasure to watch it all unfold as the season progresses.

Milford finished the regular season in second place. The first playoff game arrived, in typical New England fall glory. Dark skies, cold, dreary rain drizzles, and a wind chill that kept you shivering all over. The game location was moved from the MCAA fields to the high school due to conditions.

Despite the deplorable game conditions, Milford’s efforts paid off in a landslide win against Hollis Brookline. The once white game shirts reflected the diligent fight, as they were completely drenched, splattered in mud and caked in grass stains. Milford won 4-1, with Alli Ciardelli scoring three goals.

As the Titans celebrated the well-earned victory, they learned the opponent in the final game would be Windham, the same team that had recently crushed Milford.

Weather conditions pushed the championship game out until Oct. 28. The date change turned out to be a blessing, as the weather was nearly picture perfect.

Last year Milford had played the championship game on home turf, with fans crowded up and down the sidelines, blue and white balloons everywhere and colorful posters adored the field.

This year, home-field advantage went to Windham, so exuberant team supporters secured a fan bus for the student body, invited friends and relatives from afar, and all headed over to Windham that balmy afternoon.

Windham scored the first goal 15 minutes into the game, with a flurry in front of the net after a corner kick. The Titans kept up their positive spirit, never faltering.

According to Sawyer, “These girls played their hearts out in the final game. They went into it with a winning attitude, playing relentless defense and aggressive offense for 70 minutes. We were particularly proud of how they reacted to being down 1-0 in front of a big crowd under heavy pressure. They could have wilted under it, but instead they came out fighting even harder and evened the score.”

This was accomplished when Ashleigh Matsis set up a beautiful back pass to Collette Urda, who stealthy slipped the ball back to Matsis at the corner, enabling her to nail the ball right into the goal, putting the Titans on the score board.

Excitement grew on the sideline as the first half ended in a 1-1 tie.

The second half was back and forth for the first 10 minutes and then the Windham keeper bobbled a hard shot, which Viankah Williams ran through and knocked into the goal putting us up 2-1.

Just moments later Urda once again came through for the team with a beautiful shot from 25 yards out that sailed right over the keeper’s head to make it 3-1 Milford.

As the final whistle blew, happiness erupted and another chapter came to a glorious end.

“The girls have made great strides in their ability to possess and pass the ball under pressure.,” Sawyer said. “They are unselfish, always looking to put the ball at the feet of the girls with the best chance of scoring. They trust in their teammates and it translated into a championship season. The future is bright for Milford girls soccer.”