MIDDLETOWN – Farmington’s formula was working once again.
Amber Manning’s first-half goal was looking better by the minute as the Indians’ defense attempted to neutralize the Avon attack as the second half wore on.
But nobody knows better than Farmington coach Steve Jarvis that Erica Primovic, a 5-foot-1 bundle of offensive skill and determination, is difficult to shut down over the course of an entire match.
Primovic scored two goals in the second half and goalkeeper Kaylan Conrad made a sprawling save in the final seconds Saturday night as No. 2 Avon erased two years of frustration with a 2-1 victory over the eighth-seeded Indians to claim the Class L title.
Avon (16-1-2) settled for runner-up status the last two seasons, losing to RHAM and New Canaan. The championship is the Falcons’ fourth, their first since 2003 and first in Class L.
“I have all this emotion because this team has been in the finals three years in a row and they really deserved this,” said Avon coach Jim Murray, who lives in Farmington. “I felt for my seniors. It’s their last chance. I knew we had the team to get back here. We just had to take care of business along the way.”
The Falcons tied the game with 21:09 left.
Hunter McCarthy was thwarted trying to split two Farmington defenders in front of goalkeeper Courtney Hofer but the ball dropped behind her and Primovic was there to finish.
“I was hoping [the defender] wasn’t going to take my foot off because it was a reach for a shot but I got it somehow,” said Primovic, who played for Jarvis in premier and travel soccer.
Given Primovic’s talent and determination, Jarvis couldn’t count on keeping her quiet for 80 minutes.
“She’s a phenomenal player, and of all people for it to drop to,” he said.
Murray emphasized that the Falcons work the flanks better in the second half and the strategy produced the game-winning goal.
Grace Lennon made the most of some free space on the right side and unleashed a cross to Primovic in the box. Primovic, who was on a reduced practice schedule before the match due to a muscle strain in her leg, failed to strike the bouncing ball on her first try but wasn’t about to miss it when destiny gaver her a second chance.
“In the first half Farmington played phenomenal,” Murray said. “They outplayed us … quick touches. We knew what we needed to do but we just weren’t executing. Second half, my girls were all down, they picked themselves up and we said we needed to attack them on the flanks more. We were able to do that and get the ball in deep.”
The last seconds were trickling off the clock when Farmington earned its best chance of the second half.
Maureen Gallo launched a rocket that honed in on the upper left corner of the net but Conrad soared high in the air to deflect it aside with two seconds left.
Conrad said the ball was on target but her adrenaline took over.
“I just knew that ball was not going in and I put all my energy into it,” she said.
Farmington (12-4-3) took the lead when Manning struck a perfect ball from 35 yards out midway through the first half.
“That was her first goal of the season so she picked a perfect time to do it,” Jarvis said. “Somehow, some way this season, I’ve managed to put the girls in the right position at the right time. It just seemed like the stars were aligning again for Amber’s first goal.”
Primovic said there was plenty of concern at halftime.
“We were stressed. We started to yell at each other, which a lot of the girls didn’t like, but we didn’t know what to do because we were so frustrated,” Primovic said. “We had been in this situation before and we didn’t want it to happen again. … Thank God we turned it around. Our attitudes changed in the second half.”
Farmington suffered when Nicole DiTomasso, a sophomore influential in the defensive flow, had to be helped off the field due to an apparent knee injury.
“We started to run out of gas with Nicole [suffering] what looks to be a serious injury,” Jarvis said. “It did limit the options I had in certain positions. The girls dug deep but two fantastic goals [made the difference] at the end of the day.”
Farmington has settled for second best seven times in program history, the last coming in 2007. The Indians have two co-championships (1986 and 2003) and won one outright in 2005.
Class L Championship
At Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown
Farmington (12-4-3) 1 0 – 1
Avon (16-1-2) 0 2 – 2
First half – 1. F, Amber Manning, 21st minute.
Second half – 2. A, Erica Primovic, 59th; 3. A, Primovic (Grace Lennon), 67th.
Saves – F, Courtney Hofer 4; A, Kaylan Conrad 5. Shots – A, 9-8. Corner kicks – F, 3-2.