by Jason Levy, REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Sometimes it is clear the ball is going to bounce your way on the field. That’s what it felt like for the Holy Cross girls soccer team Friday after Devon Bushka’s boot from about 25 yards out took an in between hop past Thomaston keeper Kara Sacco just over five minutes into the game.
The No. 2 Crusaders never looked back en route to a 5-1 victory over the No. 10 Bears in the Class S quarterfinals at Jimmy Lee Stadium at Crosby High.
Lucky bounces are often the result of good planning. Holy Cross coach Phil Mongelluzzo instructed Bushka during practice Thursday to attempt a shot from a distance.
“The goalie was in the right position, it just took a bounce,” Mongelluzzo said. “It allowed us to play a little bit looser and when we put the second one in I knew we were on our way.”
Bella Millburn recorded a hat trick by cleaning up rebounds in front of the net. Bushka finished with a goal and two assists, Ella Atkins had two assists and Jenna Tracy added a late goal in the closing minutes.
“Honestly it was one of the best games we played all year,” Atkins said. “We are playing really well as a team. We connected passes really well and everyone seemed passionate.”
Mongelluzzo noted how Millburn, a freshman, is never worrying about her own stats even as she has been scoring goals all year. She did the dirty work to get three goals on the board with two rebounds off Bushka shots.
“I have been in net when Devon shoots the ball and it is a scary thing,” Mongelluzzo said. “That goalie did everything she could do. All you can do is hope to punch it, you are not catching it. Those balls come flying in and Bella was in great position.”
Mongelluzzo came away impressed with Thomaston’s youth and skill. He said one of the benefits of Holy Cross likely moving up to Class M next year (due to enrollment) would be not having to see the Bears again in the state tournament.
Thomaston coach Jen Ewart told her team to be proud of everything they have accomplished in 2021, including reaching the state tournament for the second time in program history and making it to the quarterfinals for the first time. She was proud of the team for never giving up as Claire Saunders scored their only goal with 35.5 seconds remaining.
“One of the biggest things that I told them going into this game was to be mentally tough. I think they kept their toughness,” Ewart said. “That was another thing I said to my players, we never gave up. We were still countering and making those shots.”
Holy Cross is now two wins away from defending its 2019 state championship. Up next is No. 6 Somers in the semifinals, likely Tuesday or Wednesday, at a time and location to be determined.
“If we play our game, and that was our game tonight, moving the ball to the feet, making quick decisions, really getting our horses up front to touch the ball a lot and if we are able to control the midfield like we did today, I like our chances,” Mongelluzzo said.