WESTPORT — Last season St. Joseph’s Lindsey Savko was a 20-plus goal scorer despite being a secondary weapon on a team led by All-American Jenna Bike. With Bike shadowed across the field, Savko was able to get and convert opportunities.
Now, Bike is having an outstanding freshman season at Boston College and the pressure has been on Savko to continue to finish as the go-to weapon. And Savko has proved up to the challenge.
Savko scored twice against Staples on Thursday, the second off a header in the 69th minute, to help the Cadets overcome a deficit for a 2-1 victory.
“Lindsey was a constant threat all game,” St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. “Their game plan was they didn’t want to let her beat them with speed so as soon as she touched the ball they backed off on her and Linds did a good job of not being complacent and attacking. She’s had some off games but when she’s dangerous like this we’re just a much much better team. Hopefully she has more of these games than not.”
The Cadets improved to 7-0-1 and have the most points in the conference, though Ridgefield has a game at hand.
St. Joseph did a good job dictating tempo, especially in the second half, led by Jessica Mazo, its sensational center midfielder.
“She got battered around (in the first half) and I didn’t think she was as noticeable and the second half she was fantastic,” Nogueira said. “Creating havoc, she almost put the free kick in.”
Referring to Mazo and Savko, Nogueira added, “Obviously those are our two best players and we depend on them.”
Staples didn’t have the ball as much but it played well defensively and, against a defending state champion and league finalist, proved that despite the loss of captain Lydia Shaw, who will undergo surgery Tuesday on her torn ACL, there is no reason to lower expectations.
“Performance overall I was pretty happy, even though we didn’t create much,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “I’m pretty happy with the energy the girls had, I was happy with their fight. I think it was a fair and contested game and I think the better team won.”
The outcome was much different from a year ago, when the Wreckers (5-2-1) suffered an 8-0 beating. They are much more talented, with a good influx of underclassmen working well with veterans like Charlotte Rossi and Tia Zajec.
Staples only put two shots on goal in the first half, but one was brilliant. Reese Sutter, a freshman, ran onto a clearing ball and drilled it high into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
Savko equalized in the 39th minute, getting the ball off a deflection and putting it into the left side.
“I’ve just been trying to finish my opportunities,” Savko said. “I’ve been putting them over the goal, right, left.”
Savko was true again on the game-winner, though she was given a perfect delivery in the air by Miranda Quint.
“It was a good ball by Miranda, she put it right where it needed to be, and a great finish by Lindsey,” Nogueira said.
Beattie said the play was one of the few disappointments on the day.
“If you give somebody a free header from eight yards out with Lindsey Savko’s class, she’s going to score,” Beattie said. “At the very least test the keeper. We didn’t make it hard enough for her unfortunately.”
The Cadets made an adjustment at the half to help the attack, playing with two center midfielders.
“I think that made us possess the ball a little better,” Nogueira said. “In the second half we dominated the game. I thought we played well. They’re a good team but I’m happy with the result.”
Beattie raised the possibility of a rematch in the postseason.
“A game like this won’t matter at the end of the season,” he said. “I still think we’ll finish in the top six. I think we will play them again. Am I happy to play them again? Yes.”
By the same token, Savko said the Cadets remain focused on the lofty goals that never deviate from the program’s tradition.
“Our goal is to win FCIACs and states, it has always been that way, we’re St. Joe’s, that’s our plan and that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.