By Ted Glanzer
On a day so hot and muggy that the game was divided into four quarters instead of two halves, the Hall High girls soccer team defeated Middletown High School 3-1 in the season opener in West Hartford on Wednesday.
And while it was a nice victory for the Warriors — Middletown went 15-0-1 during the regular season in 2012 — the post-game celebration was muted by the exhaustion brought on by the heat and the cramping of star defender Chantelle Swaby that required her to be helped off the field with less than a minute to go in the game.
“I felt like this is more of a preseason game, nothing against the opponent, just because of the 20-minute quarters and how hot it was and we were forced to sub more than we normally would,” Hall head coach Scott Ferguson said. “We were really kind of disjointed, so it was hard to gauge what was going on. I felt like we played well for two-thirds of the game.”
Still, that the Warriors scored three goals was an encouraging sign for a team that struggled to score in the preseason.
Sophomore midfielder Hannah Merritt opened the Warriors’ account in the 13th minute, swiping in a rebound after Middletown goalie Amy Kozlowski made a diving save off a shot by Kyanna Alleyne.
Middletown struggled to find its rhythm all game on offense, with Hall defenders Chantelle and Alyson Swaby along with Katie Rogers hassling the Dragons all match.
“We’re able to play three in the back because they are just that good,” Ferguson said. “Fast and smart. They’re not just kicking and chasing, they can distribute. We’ve given them the liberty to [bring the ball up].”
Middletown was able to level the game at 1-1 in the second quarter when Mikaela Cody nodded the ball just past Hall keeper Claudi Hess.
But Hall answered in the 48th minute on Sydney Gellerman’s lovely 20-yard chip off a throw-in.
The Warriors made it 3-1 when Kyanna Alleyne slalomed past two Dragon defenders and slotted the ball passed the keeper in the 84th minute.
Middletown applied pressure in the final five minutes of the match, but to no avail. Hall High even got some good news on Chantelle Swaby, who went down with about a minute left.
Ferguson said that his star defender was suffering from cramps from running up and down the field in the 94-degree weather.
“It was just a cramp; she’s done that a couple of times,” Scott Ferguson said. She was running up and down the field literally.”
Middletown head coach Nick Libera said that he and his team had some things to work on, but that he was proud of his charges.
“When we play the ball simple, a lot of good things happen,” Libera said. “It’s really a learning experience. “We lost three starters from the back [to graduation] and our starting goalie was out today [family bereavement].
“I thought we got unlucky on a couple of goals, but we played well and we never gave up.”There’s no rest for the weary for the Warriors, who will take on New Britain on the road at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday.