Girls soccer: Law defeats Hamden

Friday night matches have never been a commonplace occurrence for J.D. Rhode and the Jonathan Law girls soccer team. Since Rhode has been the coach, the team has played very few if any games at that time.

"We lacked our usual intensity in those first 15 minutes," Rhode said after his Eagles defeated host Hamden High 3-1. "To play well, we need to put the ball on the ground and use our speed. We weren't doing that. It's always exciting to play under the lights. One of the problems is the kids have all day to think about the game."

Law (5-6-2) was looking to control through the midfield, where the Eagles use a triangle formation of Bethany Edwards, Cici Lopes and Taylor Kandrach and speed from their forwards going to the net.

As pre-game plans go this one didn't start out well for the Eagles, who had played the Green Dragons (5-7-2) to a scoreless tie in the two teams' first meeting in the younger part of this season.

When Annika Swift scored for Hamden in the game's 15th minute, Rhode realized that his team needed to get going. Swift found a loose ball to the left of Law goalkeeper Gina DiFederico and knocked it home from 10 yards out, putting a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the net beyond her reach.

Rhode's team responded in a hurry. It took only a gap of 47 seconds before senior forward Catie Rice made it a 1-1 game. She took a deep through ball from Kristen Passaro, worked herself free from the Hamden defense, and chipped in a shot past Gabriella Panayotakis. The goal came at 23:25.

For the next 15 minutes, Hamden controlled play and had three additional chances, two of them coming from forward Katie Vita.

But Law got a score with 1:30 left which allowed them to take the lead and momentum into the second half. Forward Rhea Grant, using her acceleration and quick footwork, received a ball behind Hamden's defense from Kayla Baker and kicked home a low shot to Panayotakis' left.

Law added a goal from sophomore Samara Thacker, with an assist going to Rice, in the game's 47th minutes to build its lead to 3-1. Thacker knocked home a long, well-angled shot from 25 yards out.

Trailing by two goals and with time running down, Hamden coach Gary Collins moved his team up and began the push. The Green Dragons earned three corner kicks in the closing three minutes. Their best effort, off the foot of Jadyn Reilly was punched out of the box by Law goalie Morgan Taylor, who had replaced DiFederico for the second half.

"We played very well in the first 10 or so minutes, then we fell asleep," said Collins, a former standout player at Southern Connecticut in the early 1990s. "It's been a bad pattern that we've fallen into all year long. I think we needed a little more physical and mental energy tonight. We came in off a nice win (5-0 over North Haven) on Wednesday night."

Collins was well aware of Law's speed and ability to move the ball rapidly.

"We won very few second balls tonight," he said. "It allowed them to get the long ball over the top. We had to chase them way too many times in our defensive end."

Each team wound up making seven shots. Law held a 5-4 edge in the first 40 minutes while Hamden took a 3-2 margin in the second half. DiFederico had one save while Taylor made two. Panayotakis had three saves in net for Hamden.

Law has matches left with the Hillhouse/Cross/Career team of New Haven on Saturday and its final home match of the season Tuesday with Coginchaug Regional of Durham.