His team’s defense had been outstanding for close to 86 minutes of play in its Southern Connecticut Conference championship game against Branford last week at West Haven High’s Ken Strong Stadium.
Then, just 2:18 into what would’ve been the first of two 10-minute, sudden-death overtimes, the Hornets’ Tanya Altrui was fouled in the box, setting up a penalty shot and putting the game squarely on the line for the defending SCC champions.
Branford’s coaching staff chose sophomore Sara Consolo to attempt the kick, and Consolo didn’t miss — sending a high shot past keeper Micaela Joyce as the Hornets captured their first SCC title in coach Jen Kohut’s 15-year career.
It concluded what had been an evenly-played match by both teams.
Shelton came into it the final off of playoff victories over Amity High, 3-1, and a win over Mercy of Middletown that was decided on penalty kicks, 7-5.
The Gaels were the fourth seed and carried a 9-3-6 record.
Branford, which had defeated Hand of Madison, 1-0, the night before and had an earlier tournament triumph over Hamden (4-2), was 12-5-1 and entered the contest as the six seed.
“I just feel terrible for my keeper,” Shelton coach Marvin Miller said. “All of the pressure was on her. She played so well throughout the game.
“You could see that it was going to come down to which team made the last mistake, and, unfortunately, it was us.”
Shelton, playing an aggressive game from the start and outshooting Branford, 12-6, got a great opportunity to take a lead midway through the first half.
Sophomore forward Alexis Zoppi took a through-ball from Megan Burke and broke in down the right side all alone on Hornets’ goalie Rebecca Vitale (the eventual tournament MVP).
Vitale stopped her initial shot.
Zoppi, however, found the rebound and fired again. Vitale again got a piece of it, and the ball remained loose but a third shot went wide of the far post.
“After we dodged that bullet, I thought we played very well,” Kohut said.
“We were a little tired near the end because of that game the night before.
“But all season long our team has had balance. Fourteen of our kids who play have scored goals this year. We have that kind of balance.”
Burke, Shelton’s creative midfielder, had two good chances to score in the second half.
Her low direct kick from 30 yards out went into the Branford wall off a direct kick with 11:37 remaining, and at 7:50 she slipped through the Branford defense and fired a shot that went over the net.
“I thought that we had a good flow on offense and put together some good runs,” Miller said. “Megan got good support from the players around her.
“And, on defense, I think we defended them, and that one kid [Altrui], very well. Again, it’s unfortunate that it had to end the way it did.”
Joyce wound up with two saves for Shelton, while Vitale made six for the Hornets.