The Woodstock Academy Centaurs are the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls’ soccer champions for a second year in a row.
But they still have something to prove.
The Class L state tournament began this week.
“I want the team to achieve something they haven’t achieved and winning back-to-back ECC championships was nice, but I really want them to go into the state tournament thinking they can win a couple games, not just beating the team called ‘bye’,” said Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling.
The last time the Centaurs won a state tournament game was in 2013 when they downed Fermi, 6-0.
The Centaurs again received that first-round win over “bye” and will meet the winner of the Daniel Hand/ Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech match at 2 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Bentley Athletic Complex.
Snelling is hopeful that his team will have put the ECC championship behind them by that point.
“There is finality to the game. When you win it, it’s hard to come back from. It’s almost a re-focus of the season starting again or the postseason continuing. You have to find a focus and get it to the state tournament so you don’t just go one-and-done there,” Snelling said.
Nov. 1, Heather Converse found herself in the midst of chaos.
In the closing minute of regulation play of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 girls’ soccer tournament championship match, the Woodstock Academy senior fullback came trotting down the field to take part in a play the Centaurs had just put in the day before in practice.
“We were just thinking of ways to score off a corner kick,” Converse said.
The senior stands about 5-foot-11, much taller than Plainfield keeper Madi Pearson and the thought was to use that size to block Pearson’s vision.
Little did the Centaurs know at the time that the play would give them their second consecutive tournament title with a 1-0 win over the Panthers at East Lyme High School.
Plainfield kicked the ball out with 1:05 left in regulation of a scoreless match.
Woodstock Academy coach Dennis Snelling had one thought in mind.
He didn’t want to go overtime or penalty kicks so he had pushed everyone forward.
“We were playing it like we were losing because that’s what it feels like when its 0-0. Anybody who could possibly head a ball was in (the area) on the corner kick,” Snelling said.
Woodstock Academy sophomore Emma Redfield took the corner and what happened next was anybody’s guess.
“It was just crazy,” Converse said of the confusion that reigned in front of the Plainfield net. “There were five girls around me and I didn’t even know where the ball was. I just saw it come out and I just kicked it.”
Snelling was expecting possibly a “phantom” whistle since it’s difficult for the officials to see what is going on and players were on the ground and there was risk of them being kicked.
There was no whistle.
“I saw that the goalie did not have the ball so I knew there was a chance that it could still go in,” Snelling said.
Converse was not the likely choice.
She had a similar wide-open chance off a corner kick early in the first half that was just blocked by Pearson who also stopped a rebound shot from the Centaurs’ Lucy McDermott.
“The sideline was asking ‘How did that not go in?’ (on Converse’s shot). I said, ‘Heather will never score, she is cursed,” Snelling said.
Converse had never scored a goal in a high school soccer match.
Ashleigh Angle had the ball briefly but she was swallowed up in the scrum in front of the net and then, miraculously, it popped out.
Converse didn’t miss this time and with 52 seconds left, her goal gave the Centaurs (16-1-2) the win.
“My girls were grumbling and what not, but you can’t expect the refs to see what was going on. There were at least 10 bodies in there, a defensive back scored. You can’t expect the officials to see in there and blow it dead. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it bounces their way. It just squirts out sometimes,” said Plainfield coach Jon Zielinski.
There was little doubt who scored.
Converse jumped high toward the night-time sky, easily elevating herself above the crowd.
“Whenever anybody else scores, I always jump as high as possible anyway. That’s just my reaction,” Converse said.
This time was probably a bit more pronounced than others although Converse didn’t stay airborne for long. Sophomore teammate Peyton Saracina tackled her in celebration.
It was the third Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament title for Woodstock Academy in 24 hours.
Previous to the girls’ soccer championship, the boys’ soccer team got the best of host East Lyme, 2-0, for its first-ever ECC tournament championship. The night before, the volleyball team captured its second consecutive ECC tournament title.
“It’s just been an amazing fall sports season so far,” Converse said. “Volleyball has been doing so good and seeing the boys win before us gave us a lot of motivation.”
Last year, the Centaurs downed Plainfield (16-2-1) by a 6-0 score.
This one, for that reason, was probably a little sweeter because of the dramatic win.
“It feels even better,” Converse said. “I can’t even describe it. I’m just so proud of the team.”
Snelling agreed with those sentiments.
“I’m proud of the team to win back-to-back against a team that really put their bodies on the line. Plainfield did everything it could do to get that game. It meant so much to them and to come away with it any way is a wonderful thing,” Snelling said.
Converse talked while clutching the Most Outstanding Player award that had been given to her.
“It’s so humbling because as a defender, you don’t really get a lot of the credit, but I can’t thank my team enough just for being there and working so hard this season,” Converse said.
The Centaurs had advanced with a 1-0 win over Norwich Free Academy in the semifinals Oct. 30.
That win avenged the only loss of the season for Woodstock Academy and it came thanks to the 19th goal of the season for senior Ivy Gelhaus.
She scored with 25:11 left in the match.
The ball bounced by the two defenders shadowing Ivy Gelhaus and on to the senior’s foot.
“Ivy read the ball just the right way. It bounced up off the turf. The hours that we spent on turf this year really helped us win this game,” Snelling said.
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


RocketTheme Joomla Templates