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Revamped Mills Girls Stay Hot on the Heels of Nonnewaug With Win Over Shepaug. By John Torsiello.

POSTED October 11, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

When you win a league title 20 out of 24 years you’re obviously not rebuilding, you’re reloading.

Lewis Mills girls soccer coach Dennis Fowler admits that the 2011 season has come about as close to the Spartans rebuilding as they have in a while.

“I started seven sophomores today (a 3-0 win over Shepaug in Washington) and my first girl off the bench is a sophomore,” said the mentor, who guided his team to yet another BL title and the finals of the Class M state tournament last year only to lose in the last seconds to Suffield. “I guess you can say that Mills never has a rebuilding season but this one comes close to it.”

The Burlington team has also had to reshuffle their starting lineup due to the absence of two of the squad’s leaders, skilled seniors and All-Berkshire League players Paige Marinelli (forward) and Shannon Larkin (defender), as well as starting junior goaltender Michaela Adams, due to injury. Fowler hopes to have all three back soon. In the meantime, he has had to rely on talented and hungry youngsters to keep the Spartans in the league race.

Mills improved to 6-1 with the victory over a game Shepaug side Monday under a brilliant sun that warmed the field temperature to near 80 degrees. Mills trails only nemesis Nonnewaug in the BL race, with the Chiefs holding a 2-0 victory over the Burlington club at Mills earlier in the campaign.

“The girls are thinking about the second game with Nonnewaug (Oct. 20 in Woodbury) but I tell them we have to focus on one game at a time because teams like Litchfield and Shepaug can jump up and beat you if you aren’t careful. We beat both of those teams in our last two games and on the road no less, which I’m really pleased about.”

Fowler added, “We have 13 or 14 girls who have stepped up and I’m proud of the way they responded when our leaders went down. I thought we played well today, not great, but good enough against a scrappy team that is improving and always plays us physical.”

Shepaug kept the always potent Mills attack at bay for most of the first half until junior Hope Sherman found the net 26 minutes into the game with an assist from junior Mikaela Hillsberg. One of those talented sophomores, Julia Pearson, added a second tally 12 minutes later to give the visitors a comfortable cushion midway through the contest.

Shepaug controlled quite a bit of the play in the second half but couldn’t break through the Mills last line of defense. Pearson got her second goal of the game to secure the win for Mills with only three minutes remaining when she took control of a crossing pass on the left side of the Shepaug goal and fired the ball past Kim Valentine.

Mills outshot its hosts, 15-7. Mills goalie, sophomore Taylor Anderson, and Valentine made four saves apiece.

For Shepaug, it was the same old same old: putting pressure on the opposing team’s zone but being unable to score.

“We’re getting looks but we can’t finish,” said head coach Tara Flaherty, whose team slipped to 4-3-1. “I don’t think the girls prepared themselves physically for the heat today and wore down a bit. We started reverting to kick ball at times and that’s not the way we play.”

She added, “But our girls don’t back down from anyone. Mills is a good team and it was 0-0 for quite awhile. The girls are working hard and it will come. They get up early every Saturday morning and are down here on the field for 7:30 practice. They have the desire to get better and right now it’s all about tournament time for us.”

Three of the better players on the field for Shepaug Monday were the Isaac girls, Jen and Lindsay, both of whom are poised seniors, and freshman Sarah Stratton, who has superb speed and a willingness to push the ball up field against any defense.

Mills plays at Terryville and Shepaug entertains Northwestern Tuesday.

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