BEST OF THE BUNCH: In a star-studded soccer cast, here were your leading ladies

BEST OF THE BUNCH: In a star-studded soccer cast, here were your leading ladies

MERIDEN — We don’t need a nudge from the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to give our girls sports equal footing with the boys on the “Best of the Bunch” stage.

We’re already there.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in soccer. Four All-State players are finalists for Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Ditto for the girls.

And if there was one awards division that gave us more to debate than boys soccer, it was girls soccer.

What a season! What a cast! 2019 definitely warranted an extended run and we got it. Southington reached the Class LL state finals. Sheehan reached the Class L semis.

Maloney got back into the dance for the first time in seven years and, in Cheshire, Kylee McIntosh took up the reins at her alma mater and wound up being named Coach of the Year in the Southern Connecticut Conference.

Our slate of finalists for Girls Soccer Player of the Year features a freshman who attained All-State status in her rookie year.

It features a senior who was one of the finest athletes to ever pass through her school. (Not male, not female, just “Athlete,” with a capital A.)

And it features two juniors who were at the hub of a team so good it theoretically could have made All-Conference and All-Record-Journal en masse. (Don’t know about the Central Connecticut Conference, but I definitely gave it more than a passing thought.)

That team is Southington and those finalists are Jessica Carr and Abigial Sowa.

Carr, a forward, notched a team-high 16 goals to lead an offense that cranked out 58 in 20 games.

Sowa, a center midfielder, scored 12 goals while also being part of a defense that had nearly three times as many shutouts (16) as goals against (6).

Carr, Sowa and the Lady Knights swept to the CCC West-Colonial Division crown and stood at 17-0-2 before falling in a riveting Class LL final with Glastonbury 1-0 on a goal scored with just under six minutes to play.

Only the 2002 team, which went 17-0-3 and shared the Class LL championship with Fairfield, was more accomplished in the history of Southington girls soccer.

The Sheehan girls were also chasing their piece of program history. An upset of No. 1 RHAM in the Class L quarterfinals put the Titans in their first state semifinal since 1998, with a shot at reaching their first state final.

It was not to be.

Despite controlling play, the Titans fell to East Lyme 1-0 and finished 13-5-3. It was the final game for Olivia Dubuc, who emerged as a star in the fall of 2016 as a freshman and never lost her touch. She led the Titans in scoring in each of her four seasons and signed off with 71 career goals, second-most all time on Hope Hill Road.

For a second straight year, Dubuc was named All-SCC First Team and All-State Class L. She now heads south to play Division II soccer at the University of Tampa.

As for the college plans of Cheshire’s Gabby Tirado, well, she’s still got a little time. And she’s likely to get a whole lot of attention.

Tirado scored 14 goals in her freshman season of 2019. Of those 14 goals, seven were game-winners, including one in overtime against Danbury in the first round of the Class LL state tournament.

Tirado also racked up hat tricks on three different occasions as the Rams won the SCC Housatonic Division at 7-0-1 and finished the season at 14-4-2 overall.

She was named All-SCC First Team and All-State Class LL. Again, only a freshman. Tirado debuted as Dubuc took her final bow. In Southington, Carr and Sowa are two of 17 players, including eight starters, due to return to a 17-1-2 state runner-up.

So it’s best to leave the lights on and the set pieces right where they are. This show ain’t over.

The Record-Journal Girls Soccer Player of the Year will be announced on Thursday, June 18 during the airing of the “Best of the Bunch” awards video on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. The video will also be available on after that initial airing. Finalists in the various awards categories will be unveiled now through June 18. Up next: Girls Swimming.

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