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Lewis Mills, Nonnewaug battle to scoreless draw in Berkshire League showdown. Story by John Nestor.

POSTED October 21, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Hailey Lehning (3) of Nonnewaug and Lesleigh Carter (21) of Lewis Mills, go up for a header during the matchup of the two best teams in the Berkshire League. The game ended in a 0-0 tie.

WOODBURY - Nonnewaug still hasn't allowed a goal this season and that's why the Chiefs are now in control of the race for the Berkshire League girls soccer title.

Nonnewaug didn't score any either Thursday, as a game Lewis Mills squad came to Woodbury and battled for 90 minutes only to come away with a scoreless draw.

The Chiefs (10-0-1) are still a game ahead of the Spartans (9-1-1) in the BL race and have the upper hand thanks to a 2-0 victory in Burlington on October 4. The Spartans had rebounded from that setback to reel off five straight wins but just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net Thursday.

Nonnewaug has four of its final five games on the road and closes the regular season with a game at Litchfield, which can be a tough place to play, but the Chiefs have beaten all five of the team remaining on their schedule this season already by a combined 33-0.

With that in mind the Spartans came in looking to win and avenge their only setback of the season.

"We did need a win and that's why some girls are crying today. Because our number one goal at Mills, every year, the first thing we write on the white board is win the Berkshire league title," Lewis Mills coach Dennis Fowler said. "I asked them after the first game when we lost to just take care of business so when we came down here we would have our destiny in our own hands."

They did and the Spartans did have their destiny in their hands Thursday and they had control of the game for long stretches but could never break through for a goal. The Chiefs came out aggressive and were dangerous in the first 10 minutes, ringing a post with a shot early on, but Mills settled in and got some chances.

However, Nonnewaug hasn't been scored on this season for a reason and backup goalie Sara Morson made a few key saves and the Chiefs defense anchored by Ashley Rizzi, Kara Connolly, Mia Olson and Cassidy Haigh made the plays they needed to to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard.

"We did everything I thought except put the ball in the back of the net," Fowler said. "We played with a lot of heart, we hustled all over the field and for good stretches of the game I thought we dominated play, we just couldn't get that goal."

Neither could Nonnewaug, which was a first for it this season. The Chiefs scored two goals in two games against the Spartans and 52 in their nine other games, an average of 5.8 per game. Nonnewaug was able to generate some corners at time but for the most part the offense, and goal-scorer extraordinaire Sidney Spremullo were kept in check.

"They played well defensively," Nonnewaug coach Nick Sheikh said. "Mills stepped things up and are strong defensively. I think they have let in something like only five goals this season so it was two strong programs going at it."

Now Nonnewaug won't see a team like Mills until the state Class M tournament and while Thursday's encounter was important, it was more so for the Spartans.

"It wasn't a must win but it was a big game, every time we play them its a big game," Sheikh said. "We had to keep the ball out of our own net, which we did and try and put something together offensively, it wasn't our best game offensively, we showed glimpses, but we had trouble linking up."

Part of that was Mills, which got strong efforts all over the field and kept putting the pressure on Nonnewaug. But Sheikh think his team may be starting to feel some of the pressure that comes along with being unbeaten and unscored upon as well.

The Chiefs might be thinking a little too much and playing instinctive soccer too little.

"We are coming down to the wire and sometimes people start to second guess what they are capable of doing and instead of going out there and taking it we were hesitant in doing that," Sheikh said. "You start thinking about what could happen to you instead of what you are going to go out and do. At this point in the season and being unbeaten and unscored upon everybody is so worried about let's not get a goal scored on us, rather than lets go out and get a goal."

That mindset is something the Chiefs will have to deal with and get over with the state tournament looming and the end of the BL race in sight. From here on out the Chiefs are going to get everyone's best shot and some times the role of the favorite is not the easiest to deal with.

Fowler and Mills know what it's like to be favorites, although now they are in the relatively unfamiliar position of needing some help as far as the BL race goes.

"I couldn't be prouder, of course we wanted to win and I understand why they are upset, they are winners, they want to win the BL title," Fowler said. "We're going to need help from somebody else now, we'll cross our fingers and hope for help from somebody else and take care of our won business, but I am walking off this field extremely proud of my team."

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