Portland's Jack DeToro and East Hampton's Baden Plante fight for a loose ball as (P)#5 Caiden Hettrcik-Rivera, (P)#12 Simon Kandeke, and (EH)#8 Paul Pignatella look on.
After 80 minutes of intense, often physical soccer, the boys’ soccer teams at Portland and East Hampton finished in a scoreless tie.
The visiting Highlanders, who entered EHHS with a record of 8-3-2, ran into a motivated Bellringers squad desperate for a win to keep their postseason hopes alive
Despite being outshot, Portland still managed to come away with a draw.
Senior goalie Zack Doncet was outstanding, stopping every shot he faced, including several over the first 10 minutes and a flurry during a hectic final 10 minutes.
“It was a tough game, they had to win this game. I just had to keep my head in the game. These are always tough, it’s a rivalry game,” said Doncet, who praised the guys in front of him. “I love my defense. Credit to them for the shutout. They help me so much it’s incredible.”
Portland head coach Michael Searson liked his keeper’s composure, “Zack had always been the type of keeper that you never worry about his reaction time. He knows how to make saves. Coming into this year, we had talked about him owning the box and he’s not afraid to go out and make that play. Tonight was the type of night when we needed him to make plays and he delivered.”
Doncet made three outstanding saves in the final 8:10 of action.
The first when East Hampton’s Oren Wilson set up Brennan Johnson with a header in front of the net that Doncet covered up.
He then made a spectacular save with 4:59 remaining in regulation after Ephraim Butson placed a straight away kick towards the cross bar, which Doncet jumped and tipped away.
Two minutes later, he thwarted the final threat when he swatted away Ethan Marshall’s attempt.
East Hampton’s coach Rocco Christiana was impressed with his team’s fight, but disappointed they couldn’t finish.
“I think we are playing the best soccer we’ve played all season and I think our quality of soccer is second to none right now. We’re just not putting it in the back of the net,” said Christiana. “We’re healthy, we have quality players. We outshot them 4 to 1 and just couldn’t finish.”
Bellringers’ goalie Drew DiStefano was equally impressive as his counterpart, making a handful of saves. His final save came with 1:39 left in regulation when he scooped up a shot attempt from Portland’s senior captain Caiden Hettrick-Rivera.
“Drew has been really solid back there, he’s very vocal. He’s doing a good job controlling his defense and controlling the game,” added Christiana.
DiStefano is captaining the team with Paul Pignatella, who is pacing the offensive tempo for the Bellringers.
“Paulie is dangerous. Every coach watches and plans for him and he opens up opportunities for us,” stated Christiana. “Every player can play each position on the field and that’s how we coach them. It confuses other teams.”
Portland entered the game having already qualified for postseason play and Searson said the main goal was to have his team healthy for the tournaments, adding that his defense did a good job adjusting to East Hampton’s aggressive approach.
“I’m proud of the way they responded. They have been in these moments and in high school soccer we don’t always come out with the right kind of intensity. East Hampton did to their credit, they were working the ball well and it’s one of those games, especially early on, where we had to sit back and let the game come to us. Defensively they were splitting us a little bit in the back and Evan [Johnson], Ryan [Clarke], Cooper [Beck], and Cole [Bates] did a good job at figuring it out.”
Hettrick-Rivera is one of Searson’s two captains, leading the way with fellow senior Brady Talerico who suffered a hamstring injury in the game, which kept him out of most of the second half.
“They’ve been phenomenal with the leadership they’ve shown,” Searson said of his captains, “Caiden has been one of the better players in the conference and Brady has found his stride at putting the ball in the back of the net.”
He added, “Aside from our six seniors, we have a young team. Hopefully we look back on this game and learn from this come November.”
Following back-to-back losses to finish the regular season, Searson’s Highlanders finished the regular season with a record of 8-5-2 and now turn their attention to the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
The Highlanders welcome Haddam-Killingworth to Portland High School this Saturday (Oct 30) for an opening round match, starting at 6:00 p.m.
East Hampton will travel to Morgan the same day for their SLC tourney match at 5 p.m.
Win or lose, Christiana likes how his team has responded this fall, “This was a big rebuilding year and I’m proud of the team. I think we’ve scared a lot of teams this season.”
For the fourth year in a row, Bacon Academy senior Sam Blumberger has organized the “Stars, Socks & Stripes” donation drive with the hopes of collecting as socks, which will be given to local military veterans.
Blumberger, who is a captain and leading scorer from the Bobcats soccer team, was inspired to start the program four years ago while visiting New Jersey for a soccer tournament.
“I saw people that were being affected and I wanted to try and help them out,” said Blumberger, who has military veterans in his family.
Over the years the charitable drive has grown in popularity, both in donations and locations to donate.
“It’s very rewarding,” added Blumberger, who added he’d like to keep the drive going no matter where life takes him. “I definitely want this to continue after this year.”
Blumberger, who was born and raised in Colchester, will soon be wrapping up his senior season on the soccer field. He said the Bobcats, who won seven of eight games at home this season, have “really come together and gotten a lot better since the start of the season.”
Just like the team, the sock drive has come together, improving each year. Blumberger has been pleased that the donations have become more plentiful with each passing year.
New packages or single pairs of socks are welcomed and can be donated at three drop-off locations: Bacon Academy High School, Cragin Memorial Library, and Town Hall until November 5th.
The young philanthropist will then take the donated socks to the American Legion where they will be distributed to those in need, giving United States veterans warmth and comfort during the winter and beyond.
Blumberger added that over the years he’s donated countless pairs of his own socks and encourages others with the means to do so too, “It’s something that anybody can do and a way for people to give back for a good cause.”
Kendra Schoeps- Portland (Soccer): Schoeps scored two goals and dished out an assist as Portland girls soccer celebrated Senior Night by defeating East Hampton 4-0 on Oct 18. Head coach Joseph Santavenere said, “She did an outstanding job both scoring and setting her teammates up throughout the game.”
Schoeps was one of five seniors recognized during the special night. Hanna Brunk, Giuliana Dicenza, Allison Scott, and Kendall Prince are the Highlanders four other seniors.
Ally Hadley- RHAM (Volleyball): Hadley has played tremendously all season for a RHAM team that hasn’t lost since September 13th. The junior combined for 36 digs, 26 kills, and 8 aces as the Raptors beat Avon, Newington, and Enfield last week to extend the team’s winning streak to 16 straight matches.
Brennan Johnson- East Hampton (Soccer): Johnson scored two goals as the East Hampton boys’ soccer won their home finale, defeating Lyman Memorial 4-0 on October 25. Tommy Morton and Ethan Marshall scored the other two goals for a Bellringers team that finished 4-2-1 at EHHS this fall.
Jordan Malloy- Bacon Academy (Cross Country): Malloy was the runner-up at the ECC Girls’ Cross Country Championship, running a 20:46 at the 5k course in Norwich. The senior finished behind only the meet’s winner, Linsdey Arends from Woodstock Academy, and ran a faster time then 48 other runners. Malloy, who had won the event twice before, helped Bacon Academy place 7th out of 11 teams at the meet.
NHS girls soccer coach Adam Wilkinson earned his 100th career win. Pictured with senior captains (l-r) Marlie Zocco, Alyse Karanian, Giuliana Stolfi, Karissa Zocco, and Michelle Novikova
Adam Wilkinson, the head coach for Newington girls’ soccer, reached the 100-win plateau after the Nor'easters defeated Lewis Mill 3-0 on Oct 12.
The milestone victory capped a bizarre day for Wilkinson and the team.
“It was weird because I had a big grand plan but then I kind of forgot about it,” said Wilkinson, “When we went to Lewis Mills, we forgot soccer balls and we were all over the place. Then we beat Lewis Mills and I remembered once [the players] poured ice-cold water over me after the game. Thankfully it was a nice warm day.”
Following the win, Wilkinson received a text from former all-conference player Lindsey Fairbank, who was a freshman during Wilkinson’s first season at NHS in 2013.
“She said congrats on 100 and ‘I’m going to give myself a big pat on the back because I got you your first 50’,” Wilkinson said of the message from the 2017-graduate, “They won 50 in the first four years.”
Wilkinson added that he remembers the tough losses more than most wins but he did recall upsetting a powerhouse Northwest Catholic team in 2014 and said his most memorable win was a 1-0 upset of a higher-seeded Amity team in the Class LL tournament during Newington’s quarterfinals run in 2016.
For victory #100, Wilkinson had a balanced scoring attack as Michelle Novikova, Ella Stair and freshman Kaitlyn Gallinoto each found the back of the net.
Novikova is one of Wilkinson’s five captains.
“It made us really happy,” said Novikova. “Near the end of the game we were holding signs for his 100th win and even though he said he didn’t want the attention, he loves the attention. It was a good bonding moment for all of us and well deserved.”
Senior captain Marlie Zocco added, “It was really exciting, especially because it is our senior year, so it was nice that he got our 100th win with us. That game we worked really hard as a team.”
Zocco’s twin sister, Karissa, said the team bonded during last year’s COVID-shortened season, “We had to make the best of the season because it was obviously nothing like we were used to. This year we were all really excited to play different towns. We’ve all just had a really good time this year.”
The team’s strength this season is in the backend, where the Zocco twins are captaining a defensive unit along with Giuliana Stolfi.
Wilkinson called the defensive end “the spine” of the team.
“We’ve all been playing with each other for five years and during the preseason we got really close,” said Stolfi. “We got our team dynamic down before the season started, so that really helped us.”
The fifth captain is Alyse Karanian, who plays midfield.
“The five of us have known each other a long time. We are used to working together and having that team mindset. We’ve had a lot of really tough games, especially Southington, Glastonbury, Farmington and those are usually teams that are scoring tons of goals but our defense has been able to work together,” said Karanian. “We knew at some point this season he would get his 100th win and he has coached us for four years and you really get to know people and their success is your success. We wanted to be that team that is remembered for Adam’s 100th win.”
The five seniors, along with senior goalie Bri Norton, celebrated Senior Night last Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Rocky Hill. Novikova scored both goals in the celebratory win.
“They know my system,” Wilkinson said of his seniors. “As much as I like to work on offensive stuff in practice, I am a defensive-minded coach. I was a defensive player, so it kind of transfers over.”
They finished last week with a 4-0 win at Windsor, improving to 8-1-3 and officially securing a spot in the state tourney.
The team is currently in the middle of a three-game home stand to finish the regular season. They host RHAM this Friday (Oct. 29) at 3:45 and close the regular season against neighboring Wethersfield on Monday, Nov 2 at 6 p.m.
Wilkinson and his team defeated the Eagles (2-1) at WHS in early October and the rematch will have a little extra meaning. Adam Wilkinson’s daughter, Wethersfield senior Cam Wilkinson, will be playing after missing the first game with an injury
“I always have that one circle because of the rivalry, but also because family-wise,” said Wilkinson, who also has a younger daughter Brynn, a freshman player at WHS.
Cam Wilkinson said she congratulated her father on his 100th victory, adding, “Better to have gotten the 100th against Lewis Mill than me.”
Cam added that the family feud will be extra special, “I’ve got my dad and a bunch of CFC teammates on the Newington side, so I’m looking forward to a victory and the bragging rights that come with it. And hopefully I’ll get that goal against my dad that I’ve been looking to score the past 4 years.”
The Newington-verse-Wethersfield / father-verse-daughter match-up will take place at Alumni Field at NHS on Tuesday, Nov 2 at 6 p.m.
Maria Corcoran- Rocky Hill (Cross Country): Corcoran placed 14th at the CCC Cross Country Championship, finishing with a time of 20:41. It was a personal-record for the seniors, who said “Going into conferences at Wickham, I’d had a string of races which I wasn’t too happy with, so I really wanted to PR. Having raced the Wickham Invitational the week before, I felt pretty comfortable on the course, so I just tried to stick with a pack and close hard, which worked! After our modified 2020 season, I’ve been super grateful for the chance to race at Wickham again, and I am very happy to have PR’d.”
Isabella Coite- Cromwell (Cross Country): Coite was the first Cromwell runner to cross the finish line at the Shoreline Conference cross country championship, finishing 18th overall with a time of 23:45. The junior and the rest of the Panthers now race at the Class SS state championship at Wickham Park in Manchester on Sat (Oct 30) starting at 3:40 p.m.
Katie Bohlke- Newington (Cross Country): Bohlke finished 5th in the CCC Cross Country finals, running a 19:48 in the 5,000 meter race at Wickham Park in Manchester. The sophomore ran the second fastest time of any underclasswoman, finishing behind only freshman Brooke Strauss of Glastonbury, who won the race.
Ryan Gagne- Wethersfield (Cross Country): Gagne placed 12th at the CCC finals, running a 16:49 at Wickham Park on Oct 19. The junior finished ahead of 205 other competitors at the varsity race and now turns his attention to the Class L state finals, which will be Saturday (Oct 30) at Wickham Park, starting at 11:25 a.m.
Eamon Burke- Xavier (Cross Country): Burke blew away the field at the SCC Cross Country Championship, finishing first with a time of 15:35. The senior bested runner-up Mason Beaudette (Amity Regional) by 23 second as Xavier easily won the event, beating 13 other schools. Burke’s senior teammate Brody Santagata also had a top-five finish, placing 4th with a time of 16:19.
The girls swimming and diving program at WHS has done it again. The Eagles captured a 13th straight conference championship after defeating Windsor 99-82 last Tuesday.
“Every year is a new team and a new mountain. It’s about finding a way to get it done no matter what,” stated head coach Lee Schwartzman. “Thanks to those that came and found a way to make it seem ‘normal’.”
Schwartzman’s team dominated the event against Windsor, winning all but one swimming event.
Jilian Pitchell, Sabrina Schuster, and Alanna DePinto each won two individual events. Pitchell won both the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, Schuster won the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and DePinto won the 200 IM and 100 freestyle.
Anabella Cartiera won the 100 backstroke and the Eagles won all three relay races.
DePinto, Cartiera, Jaime Condon, and Edie Carson combined to take first in the 200 medley. DePinto, Schuster, DePinto, Condon, and Olivia Krout took first in the 200 freestyle relay. Pitchell, Schuster, Krout, and Arnold Brooke closed the meet with a best-time in the 400 freestyle relay.
The Eagles have a pair of home meet against East Lyme on Thurs, Oct 28 at 5 p.m. before hosting a conference tournament on Fri, Nov 5, starting at 3:30 p.m.
Wethersfield captain Cooper Moreau stares in at Glastonbury quarterback Drew Curto
Wethersfield football shutout Glastonbury in the second half, erasing a 10-7 halftime deficit, winning 21-10 last Friday night at GHS.
Louie Montalvo scored two rushing touchdowns and quarterback Wil Bankowski added a third on the ground.
“Any time he has the ball in his hands he can make a play,” WHS head coach Matt McKinnon said about Montalvo, “He’s playing like an all-state player, he’s opening a lot of eyes.”
Running back had Jova’n Hill was electric, racking up 151 yards from scrimmage on only seven touches. The speedy sophomore ran for 131 on the ground, including a dazzling 89-yard dash to set up Montalvo’s first touchdown late in the first quarter.
McKinnon said, “Jova’n is a great kid. It’s his first year of real football and he’s rising to the occasion. When he joined the program last spring we looked at him as coaches and knew that he could do something on the varsity if he put in the time in the weight room. He did, he didn’t miss a workout over the summer.”
Defensively, the Eagles were solid from start to finish. Senior captains Holden Speed, Cooper Moreau, and T.J. Smith limited the Guardians' run-heavy attack, along with defensive standouts Kaleb Garcia and Tyler Burgos, who each came up with drive-killing plays. Cornerback Tanner Healy cemented the victory by intercepting a Drew Curto pass in the closing minutes.
“Glastonbury is a great team and we made too many mistakes in the first half,” added McKinnon, “But we picked it up in the second half and our offense got going.
Wethersfield's #1 Tanner Healy and #8 Ben Caulfield celebrate Healy's game-clinching interception
GHS boys' cross country captains (l-r) Jackson Stone, Cody Stone, Will Haddad, and Joseph Accurso
After losing several top runners to graduation last year, Glastonbury boys cross country started the 2021 season in a rebuilding process and are finishing as a solidified unit.
Last Tuesday, the Guardians placed 6th at the conference final, besting 24 other schools.
Senior Joseph Accurso said, “We had a rocky start to the regular season, a little slower start than we’d like, but we’ve used this season to collectively grow and build from the ground up. In that aspect, we’ve come further than what we thought we would. That record we had and the scores we had in the regular season are a lot higher than we first might have expected.”
Accurso was Glastonbury’s top runner, finishing 14th with a time of 17:07 at the CCC finals at Wickham Park in Manchester. Conard’s Callum Sherry won the event with a time of 15:31.
“He’s talented enough and he’s had the work ethic to do what he has done,” said head coach Mark Alexander. “What has helped him is being in the division we are in. Conard, Hall, Avon, Simsbury are some of the top teams in the state with the top runners and Joe runs with them stride for stride. They pull him along, which makes him a better runner.”
Assistant coach Kim Libera added that Accurso has matured as a runner, “He bought into the program as a freshman, so the goal for him is to keep getting as much hardware as he can earn. We left it up to him, we didn’t say save it all for the end of the year and we didn’t tell him to blow every race apart. When you’re feeling good, you go.”
Accurso is captaining the team, along with Will Haddad and twin brothers Cody and Jackson Stone.
Haddad had a top-20 finish in the Junior Varsity race, finishing as the Guardians top runner in the event.
“A course like Wickham is so well known in this area and is so hard. It’s got the infamous Green Monster and racing there before is a huge advantage for us, knowing when to push and where to back off, but ultimately a lot of teams we’re running against are in the same position,” said Haddam. “The team is pretty confident. We’ve built up during the year and gotten better in workouts throughout the year. We’ve seen improving times from everybody on the team, especially the younger runners, and our confidence is about as high as it’s been all year.”
Alexander said the example set by the captains have bled over into the underclassmen.
“The younger guys saw that work ethic in Joseph and Will and they just copied it. It wasn’t necessarily the younger guys pushing the older guys, it was more of the younger guys wanting to be like the older guys.”
The Stone Brothers both finished the conference finals course with sub-19:30 times. Cody (19:19) and Jackson (19:27).
“A lot of guys have been improving, getting PR after PR, and that’s good to see as a captain. All the guys are super enthusiastic about practice every day and it’s motivating,” said Cody. “[This season] has been a blur. It feels like we just started racing yesterday, but we’ve had a lot of races in that blur so I think we have the experience to perform well.”
Jackson added, “Even though it's been a quick season, we’ve been able to enjoy it and hang out in and outside of practice. It’s been good because we had a bunch of freshmen coming in this year. It’s nice to see them so interested and wanting to be a part of the sport. They are really committed and it makes us a better team.”
Junior Harrison Krause was the second Glastonbury runner to cross the line, finishing 36th with a time of 17:59.
Alexander has been impressed with Krause’s development, “He’s taken four minutes off his time at Wickham over the last couple of years. We wouldn’t be doing as well if it wasn’t for him.”
Rounding out the top five Guardians runners in the varsity race were: Kevin Graziosi (18:07), Dominic Pena (18:30), and Cameron Colletti (18:56).
Freshman Austyn Neidel was the second Guardians runner to cross the line in the JV race placing 27th with a time of 19:48. Neidel was followed by sophomore Max Pawelek (20:06).
“The freshmen have really surprised us,” Accurso said. “They’ve come in here and put in the work. They are doing everything that they are supposed to. That speaks to the future of this team and all the great work the coaches are doing to prepare us for this championship season.”
Haddad added, “In years past, the varsity team has been set and there isn’t a lot of competition, but this year is different. We have a lot of competition. They pushed us as a team and pushed us to improve.”
Thanks to Haddad, Neidel, and Pawelek, Christopher Andriola, Jace Lewis, and Ben Yalof, the Guardians placed 3rd overall in the JV race.
Alexander added that a combination of the senior leaders and the strong tradition of the program can motivate the younger
runners, “They might not be at Joe’s level, but now they know where they want to get to. It’s going to make a better program down the road and it’s making us a better team right now. We want them to get used to running uncomfortable, so when we are at Wickham they’re used to it and can get through it. It’s what they all are doing now and their times are dropping.”
Next are the Class LL finals at Wickham Park on Saturday, Oct 30. The meet starts at 1 p.m.
Because of the cancellation of last year’s state final, this will be the first time the cross country program has competed on a state-level since they finished fifth overall in the 2019 Class LL state championships.
Heading into the state finals, coach Libera is happy with the team’s progress, “We didn’t expect to win any because we know it was a rebuilding year. They’re a little bit ahead of where we expected them to be.”
Freshman Brooke Strauss continues to impress during her first season on the high school cross country trails.
Last Tuesday, Strauss won the CCC Girls’ Cross Country championship at Wickham Park in Manchester, running a course-best 19:20. She crossed the finish line moments before Halls’ Katherine Saunderson, who was the runner-up with a time of 19:21.
The freshman’s strategy late in the race was simple.
“I just didn’t want her to catch me,” said a laughing Strauss, “It felt good. I don’t think I had as good of a finish as other races but I obviously did enough to get a big enough lead beforehand.”
Strauss took the lead and never looked back, something her coach said is not uncommon.
In most races this season she has raced from the front,” said head coach Brian Collins, “Even something like this where it was a little bit closer, she knows she can dig down and go a little deeper.”
Jackie Caron finished 6th (20:04) and Ava Gattinella 8th (20:15) as the Guardians won the overall event, a full 27 points ahead of Hall (41-69).
All told, the Guardians had eight runners finish in the top 25, including Jackie Dudus (11th), Lucy Bergin (15th), Kelley MacElhiney (19th), Haley Evans (21st), Olivia Dickson (25th)
Glastonbury also completely dominated the Junior Varsity race, placing in the top seven positions, led by winner Sarah Ongley. Ongley was followed by teammates Kylie Hillard, Lili Garbett, Mikayla Nedder, Annika Hurley, Hanna Caiola, and Ellen Chen. Jocelyn Wolf followed in 9th.
Next up for the talented group of runners is the Class LL State Championship, this Saturday (Oct. 30th), also at Wickham Park in Manchester. The meet starts at 1:30 p.m.
Strauss and a robust roster give Collins a lot of depth, “Having a deep team gives them all someone to run with each and every day. It pushes them. A lot of our kids that ran that JV race would be on someone else's varsity team. These girls have put in the time and effort. If someone is sick or hurt, the next girl steps up. We’ve been deep in other years, but this is probably one of our deepest teams.”
GHS senior Vincenzo Greco scored two goals, including the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes to play, as the Guardians picked up an important 2-1 win over Conard last Tuesday (Oct 19).
“It was a great opportunity for him,” head coach Chris Vozzolo said. “That was the type of game when we needed a senior captain to step up and make a big play and he did that at the end of the game to get the game winning goal. He’s doing a great job at finding some available spots and capitalizing when he sees those opportunities.”
Greco scored his first off a rebound and then hammered home the eventual decisive score in the 70th minute after receiving a great pass from Ali Taleb, allowing the Guardians to win a third straight game.
“I have to give it up to the team and the coaches. The coaches put in a new formation, play style and it definitely worked against Conard and the game prior against Tolland,” said Greco, who is captaining the team with Mitchell Williams, Kevin Carmichael, and Kevin Clarke.
Vozzolo added, “Vincenzo finds his ways to lead for our team, it’s amazing. He’s continued to build his relationship with the coaching staff and his teammates. He reaches his teammates from a lot of different ways and it’s cool to see. He leads by his talent and he’s a really talented player, the kids see that and respect the work he has put in.”
Greco and the team finished last week with a 2-2 at Hall on Friday (Oct 22). Coming into the week, the Guardians have a record of 7-4-2 .
“The second half of the season, after the Farmington game, we’ve been a lot better both offensively and defensively,” added Greco, who also plays club soccer. “I feel as a team we are becoming a tighter group. Come November and playoff time we all have to be on the same page.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin