Jon Vitale’s goal early in the second half propelled the Jonathan Law boys soccer team a 1-0 win over host Notre Dame-West Haven on Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Stadium.
With the victory, the Lawmen qualified for the Class L state tournament for the third straight season.
“It’s very important because the kids work so hard for conditioning in the off-season, they get here and they keep working hard,” Law head coach Mike Gruber said of reaching the postseason. “We might not have the most technical players, but we have a gritty group of players… We work hard, we’re a team. It’s 11 individuals working for a common goal. We reached that goal of states and hopefully this year we can make a run.”
ND-WH finished its winless campaign at 0-15-1.
Following a scoreless first half, the Lawmen won a corner kick two minutes into the second half. Troy Anderson drove the ball into the Green Knight 18-yard box, where an unmarked Vitale nodded it past keeper Jay Brennan at 37:34.
“When we get numbers up for the corner, I just tell them to look for my head,” Vitale said. “The distribution is great. I’ll put it in for them… They (the defenders) just happened to miss me on that one,”
The Lawmen (6-7-2) have thrived in dead-ball situations all year and this time, that success helped them punch their tickets to the playoffs.
“We knew set pieces were key because we’ve been really, really good with them,” Gruber said.
Law keeper Dan Majkut made sure the 1-0 scoreline stood up, coming through with his biggest stop of the game with 5:03 left. A shot from ND’s Jacob Doyle found its way through traffic, careening to the foot of Tom Ellis. Ellis had an open net for a potential equalizer, but Majkut charged him. The resulting attempt sailed up and over the crossbar for a goal kick.
The Green Knights came out searching for the back of the net following back-to-back shutout losses to Xavier (4-0) and North Haven (1-0).
“Their kids play hard for 80 minutes,” Gruber said. “We knew they were going to come out hard because this was their last game of the season. We were a little nervous because we had a state berth on the line. We came out a little flat for the first 15 minutes.”
ND kept pressure on Law defenders Kyle Goglia, Connor DiMuro, Lex Edwards and Troy Anderson early on, but did not produce any quality shots on target.
“Our core defensive players did a very good job. Nothing was too dangerous,” Gruber said.
The Green Knights best effort of the half, from Doyle, flew over the crossbar of Law keeper Dan Majkut.
While Notre Dame dictated the tempo in the opening 40 minutes, Law produced the best chances. Will Contaxis broke free along the left side, but his shot was stopped by Brennan.
The momentum started to change in the second half, leading to Law’s corner kick that produced the eventual game-winning header from Vitale.
“We started to settle in and get more possession.”
Law, unbeaten in its last three contests, will close out the regular season tomorrow night at 6:30 against Branford (9-3-2).