Girls soccer: Foran Lions at best at season's end

The Foran High girls soccer team closed out the season with a pair of top-flight performances in the Class L state tournament.

Coach Casey Blake’s Lions, for only the second time in program history, made it to the second round of the state tournament.

Foran, seeded 29th, went on the road to upend No. 4 seed Tolland High in the first round. East Lyme, which went on to the semifinals before losing to top-ranked RHAM from Hebron, then posted a 1-0 victory over Foran.

“The girls played their best game of the season against Tolland,” Blake said. “It was truly a fantastic game. We played the type of soccer that I was waiting to see all season — high pressure defending, we won 50-50 balls all over the field, we owned the midfield, and we combined well.

“Goalkeeping with Madeline Mitchell and Abigail Lucas was solid and has been all season. Abby made some amazing saves to keep us in the game. We played a full game of high level, fun soccer and then some (game went into overtime and ended in best of 5 pks).

“It was one of, if not the best soccer that I've seen since becoming head coach.”

Gabriella Muoio, Sara Portoff,  Maxine Lynch and Haley Marshall led the backline.

Cassandra Bennett, Mikayla Duhaime, Mya Wheeler, Tessa Malesky, Emily Kwalek and Allison May were at midfield, with Ariana Montero, Hayley Byers, Anna Lee Melton, Yasmine Lingane, Dana Edmondson and Isabel Morales pressing forward in the defensive third.

“Against East Lyme, we kind of ran out of gas before we picked it up in the second half,” Blake said. “We had some good looks, but just couldn't finish. The girls left their heart on the field, but it just wasn't meant to be.

“The season has been quite the ride. I love these girls and I wouldn't want to coach any other group of girls. We've had solid goalkeeping from the start with Madeline and Abigail. They've made great saves, kept us in games, and helped organize our back line.

“Gabriella Muoio had the season of her career, especially in the second half of the year. It was like a switch was flipped. She defended well and had no qualms taking the ball up field. Even played her at attack in the postseason. She was our spark plug.

“Cassandra Bennett was my anchor in the center midfield. She defended well and helped to set up some quality chances for our outside midfield and forwards. Hayley Byers had some great goals for us, the best being against Branford to seal our entrance into the state tournament.

“Mikayla Duhaime stepped up her offensive game and became more of a threat this season.

“Sara Portoff was huge for us in the back. With the preseason injury of Sophie Lucas, we needed a strong center back to organize our defense. She is naturally a center mid, but stepped into this role and really made a difference back there.

“While we had some solid play from individual players this season, at the end of the day it was our team play that ultimately made this season a success.”