Westport soccer beats Panthers, 2-1, gains elite eight in state tournament

Seventh seeded Wildcats play second seeded Millis on Saturday

Story and photos by Richard W. Dionne, Jr.
Posted 11/11/21

The “Gritty” Westport soccer team heads to the division five elite eight after edging KIPP, 2-1, in a home playoff game on Tuesday afternoon. 

“There’s no better …

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Westport soccer beats Panthers, 2-1, gains elite eight in state tournament

Seventh seeded Wildcats play second seeded Millis on Saturday

Posted

The “Gritty” Westport soccer team heads to the division five elite eight after edging KIPP, 2-1, in a home playoff game on Tuesday afternoon. 

“There’s no better feeling,” said Wildcats co-captain Nick Arruda after the game. “We came into this season doubting a lot of things. We had a couple setbacks, but we came through it all. We are here now and we are fighting for a state championship baby.”

Seventh seeded Westport had won a bye in the new state tournament bracket with their brilliant regular season play. The team has won two straight playoff games and will play second seeded Millis High School at Midfield High School on Saturday at 2 p.m., for the chance to be in the final four. 

“There are 82 teams in division five,” said Wildcats head coach Chris Parker. “For us to be amongst the last eight standing, is pretty remarkable. It’s something to be really, really proud of.” 

Wildcats striker Hunter Brodeur scored two clutch goals and senior center backs Dom Vitorino, John Letendre and senior midfielder Nick Arruda led the Westport defense as they limited KIPP to just one goal and kept Panthers attack scoreless in the second half despite a sequence of three back to back corner kicks with 5 minutes left in the game. 

“It was crunch time,” Arruda said. “We knew what we needed to do. Clear the ball and watch their scorers. And we didn’t allow them to score.”

Goalkeeper Noah Amaral made ten saves over the course of the game. The biggest against Panthers striker Marco Escobar midway through the second half when he blasted a shot from the left side, destined for the right top corner. Amaral leapt and tipped the ball into the air. Vitorino rode a Panther forward off of the ball and Amaral was able to secure it for the save. 

“Noah came through really big,” Arruda said. “Especially in the second half. Their striker had a few break aways and Noah came through with some clutch saves. Nothing better.”

 

Brodeur scores two in the first half 

For the first eleven minutes of the game, Brodeur patiently waited by the KIPP center backs for the right time to pounce. Midfielder Ben Novo dribbled up field and saw that the Panther’s defense were all playing up by the center line and booted a perfect pass over the top. Brodeur struck. The junior striker blazed by the defenders, collected the ball and placed a shot to the left of KIPP goalkeeper Angel Hernandez to give Westport a, 1-0 lead.

“Ben has been a godsend,” said Coach Parker. “He plays high level soccer and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Moments later, midfielder Coltrane McGonigle nearly made it 2-0, when he raced down the right side for another Wildcats break away. The junior took a shot and Hernandez got a piece of it and the ball caromed back onto the field. 

The Wildcats seemed to be in a groove, but Hernandez caught them napping after making a save, at the fifteen minute mark. The goalkeeper boomed a kick the length of the field to Escobar standing at the top of the box. The Panthers striker collected the ball, dribbled and quickly booted a shot by the diving Amaral, just inside the right post, to tie the score, 1-1. 

Westport quickly awakened and carried play for the rest of the half. Nineteen minutes into the game, Brodeur struck again from another Ben Novo pass. Novo stripped the ball from a KIPP midfielder at the centerline, dribbled upfield and saw Brodeur on the inside left. The midfielder chipped another perfect between the defenders and the race was on. The speedy Brodeur beat both center backs to the ball and placed a left footed kick by a charging Hernandez into the goal to put Westport up, 2-1. 

“When you have a forward that dynamic, you can get away with playing just one forward,” Coach Parker said of Brodeur. “He broke through. He knew he didn’t have to blast it. He’s stayed composed.”

A Westport infraction led to a KIPP scoring opportunity, at the twenty-five minute mark. The Panthers lined up for a direct kick from 30-yards out. The Wildcats made a wall in front of Amaral, yet the kick came booming over their heads, headed for the goal. Amaral surrounded by players, leaped up with both hands in fists and punched the ball out of the box. 

“I never worry about their heart and grit,” said Coach Parker. “I never worry about that with these guys. That’s what you need in a game like this. This team believes in each other and they fight for one another. They are a very close knit group.” 

 

Wildcats continued their gritty play in the second half

The Wildcats continued their gritty play in the second half and had several good opportunities to score. McGonicle kicked a shot wide of the goal from 5-yards out, after the ball fell during a Westport corner kick. Brodeur went in on another break away, but this time Hernandez was quicker and scooped up the ball before the striker could get a foot on it. 

Midfielder Antonio Dutra Africano also had a great opportunity to increase Westport’s lead, when the ball came to him during a corner kick. The Junior had an open net as the ball trickled through the scrum, but he blasted the ball over the cross bar. 

Needing to tie the score, the Panthers increased their pressure late in the game and induced three corner kicks in a row. Their best chance to score came during last corner kick. The towering kick flew into the middle of the scrum. Vitorino out-leaped the crowd and grazed the ball with his head, just enough to send it towards the right side of the goal. Letendre eyed Escobar waiting on the goalpost, boxed him out and kicked the ball out the right sideline towards the Wildcats bench. The players and crowd cheered as the final whistle came moments later.

“As skilled as they were, I would argue that we were the grittier team,” Coach Parker said. “We fought to get to every ball in the second half.”  

“Westport a small school. We lose half our kids every year. But the guys we keep are just wonderful soccer players and even better young men,” said Coach Parker. 

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