East Hampton’s David Castiblanco and Old Saybrook’s Felipe Dutra battle for the ball at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford. The Bellringers would lose the Class S title match to the Rams.
Playing on a slick surface and in a driving wind at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford, the boys’ soccer team at East Hampton High School lost to Old Saybrook, 2-0, in the Class S championship game.
Old Saybrook’s Kevin DeCapua scored with an assist from Brayden Cody in the 17th minute and Cameron DeAngelo scored an insurance goal with 1:09 to play in regulation as the Rams won the Class S title for a fourth straight season.
For the entire 80 minute battle, players from both teams were slipping and sliding all over the weather-hardened artificial surface where the Hartford Athletics play professional soccer. The early start, combined with the frigid temperatures and moisture on the field made playing conditions less than ideal.
East Hampton head coach Rocco Christiana described the poor field conditions as “like playing on a sheet of ice”, but gave credit to the Shoreline Conference rivals.
“[Old Saybrook] won and congratulations to them, but we shouldn't be playing on fields like this for our final game. It’s absolutely ridiculous.” added Christiana.
East Hampton held a significant advantage in shots on goal, particularly in the first half when they had the wind at their backs.
Will Nafis, Colin Marshall, Oren Wilson, Brennan Johnson, and Ephraim Butson each had at least one shot on goal over the first 40 minutes, but struggled to find footing or accuracy due to the slippery surface.
Old Saybrook’s junior goalie London Sweeney, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, made spectacular save after spectacular save to shutout an East Hampton team that hadn’t been held scoreless in any of their previous 18 games this season.
In the 17th minute, Sweeney dove to save a shot from Wilson and a few minutes later jumped to deflect a shot from Marshall.
In the second half, Sweeney made another diving save of a David Castiblanco shot and ended contest by swatting away a free kick from Wilson in the closing minute of regulation.
East Hampton goalie Thomas Fenton was just as impressive, making several highlight reel saves.
Once the final whistle sounded, Christiana met a dejected Fenton on the field and comforted his junior goalkeeper.
“I just told him to keep his chin up, we’ve got one more year. We’ll come back next year and do what we need to do,” said Christiana. “He’s the best goalie that I’ve seen; it’s unfortunate what happened today.”
All told, the Bellringers won a total of 16 games this fall. They finished the regular season 11-1-1 and delivered Old Saybrook their only regular season loss on Oct. 28. East Hampton then won the a Shoreline Conference (SLC) championship with a victory over Morgan before ousting Thomaston, Canton, and Norte-Dame Fairfield in the state tourney to reach the program’s first state championship game since 2014.
Unfortunately for the Bellringers, the Rams of Old Saybrook would get their revenge in the most important game of the season.
The championship loss was the final high school game for a half dozen seniors, who Christiana said “carried the team all year.”
Johnson, Wilson, and Butson were Christiana’s captains in the field.
Christiana called Johnson “stellar” and praised Wilson for running the team from the midfield and Butson for his work on the backline.
Castiblanco, Josh Landon, and Adam Wecht will also be departing.
Johnson, who scored a team-high 23 goals, and Wilson were named All-Shoreline First Team. Castiblanco and Nafis earned All-Shoreline Second Team, while Butson was named Honorable Mention.
Fenton, who registered 11 shutouts this fall, was named the Shoreline Conference Goalie of the Year.
“We had a really successful season,” stated Christiana, who was named the Shoreline Coach of the Year. “We made it to the show and did the best we could with the conditions that we had, and we’re proud of what we did.”
RHAM senior Ally Hadley was named the MVP as the Raptors won a second straight state championship on Nov. 19. Hadley (left) is pictured with junior Leilani Fecho following the state championship triumph.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts for the week(s) of Nov. 7 - 20:
Ally Hadley - RHAM High School (Volleyball): Hadley was named the Most Valuable Player of the Class M state tournament as the Raptors swept Woodland in three sets to win a state championship on Nov. 19. The senior captain finished with 16 digs and a dozen kills as RHAM won their second consecutive title and ninth championship since 2009. Hadley finished as the team leader in aces this fall.
Riley Anderson - Bacon Academy High School (Swimming): Anderson wrapped up a phenomenal freshman season in the pool by winning the 50 Freestyle at the State Open, swimming a state-best time of 23.07 to edge runner-up Riley Kudlac of Glastonbury (23.50) on Nov. 20. Anderson, who earned All-American status in her first high school season in the pool, previously won the 50 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle at the Class S meet on Nov. 15. She also teamed with Sophia Falkowski, Bella Falkowski, and Avery Anderson to make the All-State team in the 200 Freestyle Relay.
Jordan Murphy - East Hampton High School (Volleyball): Murphy was named the Most Valuable Player of the Class S state tournament after helping the Bellringers win the program’s first state championship with a five-set victory over Hale Ray on Nov. 19. East Hampton dropped the first two sets in the championship match before rallying to win the final three sets. Murphy was the Bellringers leader in kills this season, averaging over three per set, including a season-high 21 kills in a five-set victory over Griswold in the state semifinals on Nov. 15 to reach the championship match.
Alex Hair - Portland High School (Football): Hair, who missed the team’s first seven games while recovering from an injury, has returned with consecutive standout performances. In a Nov. 10 game against Rockville, the senior running back had over 100 yards rushing and scored a touchdown, and had a sack on defense. Hair was the team’s leading rusher during the Panthers championship season last fall and is now back to full health as the team attempts to repeat.
Bacon Academy freshman Bailey Elliott pursues Mercy’s Julia Salley during the Class M semifinals at Veterans Stadium in New Britain on Nov. 16. The Bobcats lost 3-0 to the Tigers, who would go on to win a second straight state championship.
Bacon Academy girls’ soccer head coach Matt Rafala guided his Bobcats to the state semifinals in his first season running the program.
After winning ten games in the regular season, the team was victorious in the first three rounds of the Class M state tournament before losing to Mercy, 3-0, in the semifinal round at Veterans Stadium in New Britain on Nov. 16.
It was the furthest the Bobcats have advanced in the state tourney in 15 years, last making the semifinals in 2007.
“It was a great season. I’m proud of this team,” Rafala said after the elimination game. “We had a great run; it was a good accomplishment.”
In the loss to Mercy—a private school from Middletown—the Bobcats went toe-to-toe with the defending state champion Tigers.
Following a goal from Mercy’s Laney Smith in the fourth minute of the game, Bacon stiffened on defense and didn’t allow another goal for the next 65 minutes of action until Megan Menard and Kate Donlan each scored in the final ten minutes of regulation.
“They have been in these types of games the entire season and they have come back with seconds left in the game, so this bunch never felt like they were out of it. They have always had that fire and it showed tonight,” stated Rafala. “They stuck with a team that was the defending state champs for a reason. They were going up against a tall task and they rose to it. I am really, really proud of them.”
Mercy would advance to the state championship where they would defeat Northwest Catholic to capture the Class M championship for the second straight season—last year finishing as co-champions with Sacred Heart.
The loss to Mercy was the final game for four Bacon Academy seniors.
Captains Maddox Burton and Anna LeGault, along with Trinity Georgens and Danielle Benoit, helped Rafala guide an inexperienced team that started three freshmen and four sophomores against Mercy.
“[The seniors] helped bring the team together and the leadership they showed to help bring along the freshman and bring along the sophomore,” stated Rafala. “They gave the rest of the team the opportunity to come in and step into the light and shine for themselves.”
Sophomore goalie Liz Glover will again be the anchor on the back end next year. Glover posted ten shutouts this fall, including three straight in the state tournament as the Bobcats blanked Seymour (4-0), Plainville (1-0), and Lewis Mills (1-0).
Rafala called Glover “amazing” and said that she stood tall against the top teams in the state all season.
“Liz is a special one. She stops so many shots that I don’t think many people can,” added Rafala. “I have yet to see a goalkeeper in the state that has wowed me more than she has. “
Glover will lead a Class of 2025 that also includes returning starters Veronica Smith, Audrey Palmer, and Katelyn Novak. Freshmen starters Alyssa Blanchette, Lanie McIlduff, and Mia Hageman will also be back to head the Class of 2026.
Junior Emily Ferrigno and Kayla Hall are also expected back to assume the senior leadership duties next fall.
With nearly their entire starting lineup slated to return next season, the future looks bright for the Bobcats.
“We’ll have some really young talented coming back, so fingers crossed,” said Rafala. “Hopefully they can take this experience and that it drives them next year.”
GHS junior Hailey Moriarty and Staple freshman Natalie Chudowsky chase after a loose ball during the Class LL state semifinals at Naugatuck High School on Nov. 16. Chudowsky would score a pair of goals as the Wreckers defeated the Guardians 3-0 to advance to the state championship game.
Glastonbury High School girls’ soccer fell to Staples 3-0 in the semifinals of the Class LL tourney at Naugatuck High School on Nov. 16.
Freshman Natalie Chudowsky netted two goals and her sister, Evelyn Chudowsky, scored the other as the Westport-based
Wreckers advanced to the Class LL state championship and ended the Guardians’ season.
“We just got completely outplayed,” GHS head coach Mark Landers said. “They beat us to every 50/50 ball. They were just better than we were,”
Thanks to a handful of saves from GHS goalie Marla Radikas, the game remained scoreless for the first 37 minutes before Natalie Chudowsky scored her first when she fired a rocket shot from the right hash to the left hand corner of the net.
Less than a minute later, the freshman sensation fired another shot on goal that Radikas dove to deflect, keeping it a one-score game at the half.
Six minutes into the second half, Evelyn Chudowsky scored after getting behind the Glastonbury defense and the younger Chudowsky sister added her second goal when she again found the left hand corner of the net in the 57th minute.
Landers called Natalie Chudowsky a “phenomenal player” and said both of her goals were “clinical.”
The Guardians best chance to score came in the 48th minute when Alayna Taylor created a one-on-one opportunity and fired a point blank shot, but Staples’ goalie Camille Kolek made a sliding deflection as soon as the ball left Taylor’s foot.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for a Guardians team that won 15 games and a Central Connecticut Conference championship in Lander’s second season on the sidelines.
After entering the state tourney as the No. 2 seed, Glastonbury beat Danbury and Fairfield-Warde to reach the state semifinal round for the first time since they beat Staples in the semifinals in 2019.
The loss this fall to Staples, the No. 3-seed, ended the high school careers for a dozen seniors.
For Landers, who took over the program a year ago after guiding the GHS boys’ program to eight state titles over 20 years, the Class of 2023 is a little extra special because his daughters, Kelsey and Mackenzie, are two of the 12 players that played their final high school game.
Landers credited the senior for persevering through the pandemic and building a positive culture within the program.
“[They] have been loyal to each other. They have loved and believed in each other,” added Landers. “It was pretty special to watch them come together as a family.
Four of the departing seniors have already committed to play soccer collegiately at the Division I level. Taylor is headed to The University of Connecticut, Gianna Angelillo will attend The University of Miami, Kelsey Landers is off to Iona College, and Mackenzie Landers is bound for Iona College
Losing to Staples was not how Landers envision the season ending, but he said it didn’t take away from what they were able to accomplish.
“We got better as the season wore on,” stated Landers. “We beat a couple of teams in the tournament and we only lost two games all year, so we improved from day one until where we are today.”
Following the victory over Glastonbury, Staples would defeat top-seed Cheshire, 4-1, in the Class LL championship game at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford on Nov. 20 to capture the state championship for a second straight season.
The Glastonbury High School girls’ soccer team surrounds the team’s four Division I college commits at the player’s official Letter of Intent signing on Nov. 9. The four college-bound players are seated (from left) Kelsey Landers, Alayna Taylor, Mackenzie Landers, and Gianna Angelillo.
Glastonbury High School senior Harrison Krause competed his senior season on the trails by competing in the New England Championships in Rhode Island on Nov. 12.
For Glastonbury High School senior Harrison Krause, what started as a summer filled with running countless miles locally, finished on the championship trails in Rhode Island.
Krause wrapped up his cross-country career at GHS by running at the New England Championship at Ponaganset High School in Glocester, RI on Nov. 12.
“It was a new experience, traveling to a meet. I really hadn’t done that” said Krause, who finished 29th overall and ahead of 231 other runners at the regional meet. “It was really fun.”
The race put a bow on what was a stellar season for Krause, who shaved over two minutes off his previous time at the state’s Class LL championship meet at Wickham Park.
A season ago, Krause ran an 18:34 at the class meet and this season he finished 7th overall with a time of 16:21 on Oct. 29.
GHS head coach Mark Alexander said he was blown away by Krause’s improvement this fall, crediting the dedicated senior for his tireless work in the summer.
“He has stepped up immensely. Looking back at him as a freshman and to see how far he has progressed, not just as an athlete but also as a leader, is incredible,” added Alexander. “All the younger kids respect and look up to him, and they want to know what he did as a freshman, so they can try and improve like he did.”
Krause said the championship races––including an 11th place finish at the State Open on Nov. 4––were all memorable, but it’s his race in Farmington at the Winding Trails Invitational that stood out the most.
Running stride for stride with Bristol Central’s Francis Porrini III, Krause ran a personal-best 16:06 to finish second overall to Porrini at the race on Sept. 24.
“We were pushing each other the entire time,” recalled Krause. “It was in the woods so we didn’t really have good GPS tracking, so we just ran with each other the entire time.”
Krause, who first started running races with his father while in elementary school and later joined the cross-country team in middle school, said he could feel himself going up and down the hills faster this season thanks to his strength and endurance training he did in the offseason.
Along with qualifying for regionals, Krause was also named All-State. He was the leader of the pack for a Guardians team that placed 7th at the Class LL championships and then posted a top-ten finish at the State Open.
Krause said it was a collective effort from a group of guys that both encouraged and challenged each other, adding, “It’s really nice to see us hit times that we wanted to hit and succeed. I am really excited to see what the underclassmen will do in a couple of years because they are looking really strong.”
Alexander said that Krause has followed in the footstep of recent program standouts Jacob Smith (2020-graduate) and Joseph Accurso (2022-graduate), who both mentored Krause.
“Harrison is now setting that example. His leads by example and through his work ethic,” added Alexander. “In a couple of years these younger kids will be doing the same thing. It’s a building process and I want to see it every year come through.”
Alexander continued, “All of our captains this year have motivated these younger kids to be better runners and better athletes and better people. They all do the little things.”
Now that the cross-country season has concluded, Krause will turn his attention to indoor track this winter before wrapping his high school running days with outdoor track in the spring.
His main focus is the 3,200 meters where he hopes to qualify for Nationals.
Krause said that competitive running is definitely in his future and he is currently weighing his college options, leaning towards a climate outside of Connecticut is that “warm, but not too warm.”
Senior captain Dante Ricci controls the ball during the Bobcats quarterfinals loss to Cromwell at Bacon Academy on Nov. 11.
Playing on a dreary, damp afternoon Bacon Academy High School, the Bobcats boys’ soccer season came to an end after the team fell to visiting Cromwell 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class M tournament on Nov. 11.
Cromwell senior captain Jacob Salafia scored a goal less than three minutes into the game to give the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish.
Salafia scored again midway through the first half and Jack Wood added an insurance goal in the 67th minute.
“We knew how they played and we were prepared, but we didn't execute. They executed their plan a little better than we did,” Bacon Academy head coach Skip Starks said following the defeat. “No excuses; they made a couple of opportunities go in and we did not.”
Stark’s Bobcats had several scoring opportunities in the first half and more chances in the second half, but all the shot attempts were either off the mark or saved by Cromwell’s standout goalie Thomas Garcia.
Following Salafia’s first goal, Bacon had the next seven shot attempts with senior captains Nico Matteucci and Keegan Appleby each shooting twice on goal.
Bacon also had five of the first six shots in the second half with senior Steven Laliberte firing two shots that were both saved by Garcia. Laliberte also had a shot hit off the post with 3:20 left in regulation.
The elimination game ended the high school careers for eight influential seniors, who Starks said have left a legacy that will go beyond this season.
“This senior class has turned the program around,” stated Starks. “Their ability to bring the younger guys along has been unsurpassed by any senior class ever. We are now poised for next year and the year after. We’ll be standing on their shoulders for a bit.”
When the seniors were freshmen in 2019, the program was in the middle of a coaching transition and won four games, missing the state tournament. As sophomores, the team won three games during a COVID shortened season.
Starks said the Class of 2023 resiliently pushed through the rough start and began to hit their stride as juniors.
Over the last two seasons, the team won 26 games, including three in the state tournament.
This fall the team won 14 games, most notably knocking off Stonington in the second round of the state tourney on Nov. 9. Stonington was the two-time defending Class M state champion and had previously eliminated the Bobcats from the state tourney a year ago and the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament this fall.
Bacon got revenge in the semifinal triumph in November, getting a goal from Colby Butterfield and a game-winning goal from Tyler Pulse to end Stonington’s two-year reign.
Starks said that the team’s morale was “at an all-time high” following the victory over Stonington, adding, “The boys have been clicking quite well and not just with soccer. We have great leadership on this team.”
The team’s motto this fall was ‘SideB4Self’ and Starks said the entire team bought into the slogan, adding, “We support each other through thick and thin.”
On the field the Bobcats were dynamic too with six of the eight seniors making All-ECC.
Matteucci, Appleby, Laliberte, Ian Sargent, Dante Ricci, and goalie Evan St. Louis earned all-conference, while Starks was named the ECC Division II Coach of the Year.
Starks noted that his award was a reflection of the players, crediting them for the success this fall.
“I told them there is no reason for them to hang their heads,” Starks said of his message to the team after the disappointing loss. “I am proud of them. I know they are upset about today, but we’ll get together again another time and celebrate what we did do.”
East Hampton boys’ soccer head coach Rocco Christiana talks with all-conference sophomore William Nafis in overtime during the Bellringers victory over Canton on Nov. 11.
East Hampton boys’ soccer is headed to the program’s first state championship in eight years after beating Canton on penalty kicks in the Class S quarterfinals and then ousting Notre Dame-Fairfield in the semifinals on Tuesday.
In the victory over Canton on Nov. 11, the No. 3-ranked Bellringers outlasted the visiting Warriors 3-2 (PKs: 5-3) on a rain-soaked field at East Hampton High School.
After 100 minutes of soccer, including a pair of 10 minute overtime periods, East Hampton was flawless on penalty kicks, netting five-of-five shots.
All-conference goalie Thomas Fenton cemented the victory, making a crucial save on Canton’s third penalty kick attempt.
“I was just taking it one shot at a time. One save can win the whole thing,” said Fenton. “I was nervous, not going to lie. That is one of a few shootouts that I have been in, but I felt comfortable.”
“He is the best goalie in the league,” head coach Rocco Christiana said of Fenton, who was named the Shoreline Conference Goalie of the Year. “He is #1 and you see why.”
Leading up to the game Fenton had a conversation with his teammates, saying, “I told the boys in our last practice, if we go into PKs I’ll do the best to have your back. But if they didn’t make all five I wouldn’t be standing here right now.”
Brennan Johnson, Oren Wilson, William Nafis, Ephraim Butson each made their kicks, setting the stage for Jakub Remiszewski to boot home the game-ender.
Christiana said that Remiszewski approached him before the extra session asking to kick fifth.
“I’m not going to question someone with that type of confidence,” stated Christiana.
Johnson and Colin Marshall scored goals in regulation as the two unevenly-matched teams battled with each other and the weather conditions, featuring a steady drizzle of rain for the entire game.
Shots were scarce in the two overtime sessions, forcing the teams to settle it with the penalty kicks.
Christiana said that his team was prepared for the shootout, adding, "We worked on it all season long. I was extremely confident and had no worries.”
The win was the Bellringers final home game and marked the six straight victory at the friendly confines of EHHS.
“It’s always good to be at home. We have the best fans in the state; the best support system,” added Christiana, who credited Canton for giving them his team all they could handle. “I have a great relationship with the Canton coaches. They are a class act and a great team.”
In the semifinal victory, the Bellringers blanked Notre Dame-Fairfield 2-0 at Pomperaug High School, advancing the program to its first state championship since 2014 when they finished as the co-champions following a 0-0 tie with Somers in the Class S title match.
After winning 11 regular season games this fall, the Bellringers swept through the SLC tournament before defeating Morgan 3-1 on Nov. 4 to win the conference crown.
Johnson and Wilson were named All-Shoreline first-team, Nafis and David Castiblanco were named to the second-team, and Butson was an honorable mention selection.
Christiana, who was named the Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year, credited assistant coach Michele Landry for the team’s defense front which has been the hallmark this season, shutting out 11 opponents and not allowing more than two goals in any game.
Prior to leaving the field during the quarterfinals win over Canton, Christiana exclaimed, “We’re not done yet.”
After this weekend, Christiana’s team will be done. They will either be crowned state champions or finish as the runner-up to Old Saybrook, their opponent in the Class S title tilt at the Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford.
Visit ciacsports.com for a date and time of the championship game.
Jacob Salafia scored a pair of goals as Cromwell eliminated Bacon Academy in the quarterfinals of the Class M tournament on Oct. 11. Salafia scored in all three of the Panthers tournament games.
Jacob Salafia - Cromwell (Soccer): Salafia has been a scoring machine in the tournament, netting goals in each of the team’s first three tournament games.
The senior captain scored a pair of goals in a 3-0 victory at Bacon Academy in the quarterfinals of the Class M state tournament on Nov. 11.
Salafia’s first goal came less than three minutes into the game when he gathered a deflection and scored what would prove to be the game-winner
“We’ve been scoring a lot of goals early in the tournament and I think that gets out confidence going,” said Salafia, who said the team turned the page following a 6-0 loss to Morgan in the Shoreline Conference tournament on Oct. 29. “After that Morgan game we had a couple of days off and we had to refocus ourselves. We knew we could make a run in this tournament.”
Head coach Angelo Morello said that Salafia has been “outstanding” in the state tournament, adding that the prolific scorer came into the state tourney with a “chip of his shoulder” after not making the first-team all-conference following 20 goals in the regular season.
In Cromwell’s first two tourney games, Salafia scored the team’s only goal as the Panthers defeated Joel Barlow (1-0) in the first round and again during the team’s 2-1 win over Lewis Mills (2-1) in the second round.
In the win over Bacon, Jack Wood added an insurance goal in the second half and junior goalie Thomas Garcia was terrific between the pipes, making a handful of miraculous saves to preserve the shutout.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Morello said of Garcia. “He’s been our rock back there.”
Veronica McKenna - Wethersfield (Field Hockey): McKenna was flawless in goal over a pair of tournament games as the Eagles shutout Farmington 2-0 in the first round and Masuk 1-0 in overtime in the quarterfinals of Class M tournament. The senior captain went the entire way against Farmington and then played all the way through regulation in the quarterfinals before Tess Parker cemented the shutout in overtime. The goalies provided the defense, while freshman Maya Fanelli and junior Sadie Ruiz each scored to spark the offense in the win over Farmington and Ruiz scored a dramatic game-winner with 39 seconds left in the extra session against Masuk to send the Eagles to the semifinals for the second straight season. .
Milena Brodowicz - Wethersfield (Swimming): Brodowicz broke the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC)-North Championship meet record in the 50 yard freestyle as the Eagles took first place at the conference meet. Brodowicz, a freshman, also won the 500 freestyle and was part of the medley relay team that took first. In addition, she also teamed with Isabella Korzinski, Sophia Klementon, and Madison Tracy to break the Freshman Record in the 400 freestyle relay. Wethersfield dominated the meet overall, positing 93% best times and taking 59 of a total 90 medals with 23 of the 29 members of the team winning at least one medal.
David Czubat - Rocky Hill (Soccer): Czubat scored on a header off a corner kick in the 73rd minute to provide the go-ahead goal as the Terriers rallied to upset No. 2-ranked Windham 2-1 in the second round of the Class M tourney. Rocky Hill fell behind 1-0 before Jason Nadeau knotted the score midway through the second half, paving the way for Czubat’s heroics.
Allie Leahy - Wethersfield (Soccer): Leahy scored the game’s lone goal as the Eagles eliminated Guilford (1-0) in the second round of the Class L tournament on Nov. 10 and then tallied another goal in the team’s quarterfinals victory (2-1) over Woodstock on Nov. 12 at WHS. Bella Bonfiglio scored the Eagles’ other goal in the win over Woodstock and Vanessa Venditti registered both wins in goal, including picking up her 10th shutout in the victory over Guilford.
Cromwell senior captain Liv Lusitani battles Montville’s Isabella Estelle for the ball during the Panthers 6-0 win in the opening round of the Class M tournament on Nov. 8.
Coming into the state tournament, the girls’ soccer team at Cromwell High School hadn’t posted multiple goals in a game since Oct. 20, a drought spanning five games.
All that changed last Tuesday when the Panthers exploded for five goals in the first half during a 6-0 victory over visiting Woodstock in the first round of the Class M tournament at Cromwell High School.
Senior captain Liv Lusitani and junior Cam Hickey each scored a pair of goals, while junior Katie Barber and sophomore Audrey Dana also netted goals.
It also marked the team’s seventh shutout this fall. Senior captain Lily Kenney kept the net clean in the first half and junior Lauren McCarroll duplicated that feat over the final 40 minutes.
Prior to the state tourney Cromwell had lost three straight games, including a heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks to Old Saybrook in the semifinals of Shoreline Conference (SLC) on Nov. 2.
“It was a wake-up call for all of us, coaches included,” head coach Marcelo Caetano said of the defeats. “We had to forget about what had happened and reset, and see the type of tone that we were going to set.”
Caetano’s team emphatically responded in the opening round of the state tourney, scoring early and often in the first half.
Less than five minutes into the game, Barber scored when she slipped a shot past Montville’s sophomore goalie Katherine Myjak.
“Everyone took a deep breath,” Kenney said of the early goal. “We always trust our offense and as soon as that goal went in the weight on our shoulders was off. We were able to relax more.”
Lusitani added that Barber’s goal helped “breed the rest” of the goals, saying, “We started playing for each other more.”
In the 17th minute, Lusitani tallied her first when she rebounded her own deflected shot on a breakaway before finishing what she started.
Less than a minute later, Hickey found the back of the net after working a perfect give-and-go with Lusitani. Hickey passed the ball to Lusitani before cutting towards the middle of the field as Lusitani sent the ball back to her in front of the net.
Prior to the state tourney, Caetano said the coaching staff modified some of the team’s formations, giving his weapons more room to operate on offense.
“We just want to put our kids in the best position possible and at the end of the day as long as they’re having fun the kids loosen up,” said Caetano, who sensed his team had the right mindset prior to the game. “The biggest component was the energy level was very different.”
Dana made it 4-0 when she rebounded a Hickey shot in front of the net before booting one home.
With 4:43 to play in the first half, Lusitani scored her second after getting an assist from Ellie Sbriglio.
With the comfort of a five-goal lead, Caetano was able to get several reserves playing time over the final 40 minutes.
Kenney made nine saves in the first half, including back-to-back stops on consecutive corner kicks in the 26th minute, before the senior captain become McCarroll’s biggest supporter in the second half.
“I love Lauren.” said Kenney. “I can’t wait to see how amazing she does next year.”
McCarroll made a handful of stops in the second half, most notably a diving stop with eight minutes to play and catching a midair shot in the waning seconds of regulation to preserve the shutout.
Caetano called McCarroll the “heartbeat of the team.”
“People feed off her infectious attitude and from a goalkeeper standpoint she is pretty good,” added Caetano. “To live in the shadow of Lily is difficult and she has been Lily’s #1 supporter and same thing with Lily for Lauren.”
Hickey put the finishing touches on a prolific day on the offensive end when she received a free kick pass in stride from April LeBlanc and scored less than ten minutes into the second half.
Lusitani said the days off between the SLC tourney and the state tourney allowed the team to refocus on the goal at hand.
“We reflected upon ourselves and how we could do better,” added Lusitani.
Prior to the tourney opener, the players went to breakfast together and Kenney said the meal allowed the team a chance to reconnect off the field.
“We realized this could be our last time, so we had to reflect and play hard this entire game,” added Kenney.
The Panthers followed up the decisive victory with a 2-0 shutout of Ansonia in the second round before falling to Northwest Catholic (6-0) in the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal’s loss ended a 12-win season for the Panthers and the high school careers for 11 influential seniors at CHS.
Glastonbury High School soccer starters (from left) Hailey Moriarty, Gianna Angelillo, and Alayna Taylor walk off the field at halftime during the Guardians dramatic victory over Danbury in the second round of the Class LL tournament.
In what was a physical and emotionally charged game, the girls’ soccer team at Glastonbury High School defeated Danbury on penalty kicks 3-2 (PK: 4-3) in the second round of the Class LL tournament on Nov. 10.
The Guardians scored a pair of goals in the first half, courtesy of seniors Gianna Angelillo and Riley Carroll, before Danbury stormed back in the second half to even it up and send it into overtime.
Following 100 minutes of game action, inducing a pair of 10 minute overtime periods, Glastonbury moved to the quarterfinals on penalty kicks by making four of five shots with Danbury capitalizing on only three..
“One thing we talk about is that success is on the other side of adversity,” GHS head coach Mark Landers said. “It was up to us if we wanted to face that adversity and get to the other side.”
Angelillo, Angela Chavez, and Anna Sheehan each made penalty kicks, setting the stage for sophomore Corey Anderson to play the hero. Anderson buried the game-clincher before her teammates mobbed her on the field to celebrate.
“I am so proud of Corey, I love her. She is an amazing player,” Angelillo said of Anderson.
Angelillo stated that the coaching staff reminded the five shooters to remain “calm, cool, and collected” before they went out for the crucial penalty kick, adding, “We were just worried about getting that ball in the back of the net and tuning out everything else around us.”
Prior to Anderson’s game-winner, Glastonbury’s junior keeper Marla Radikas stood strong on Danbury’s five penalty kicks, gobbling up an attempt by captain Mya Pellicone and watching as Nayeli Guzman’s shot went high.
“Marla has been great in goals on PKs and we knew she would give us a chance,” said Landers, who added that he had confidence that Anderson would finish the final penalty kick.
“She is just so composed and so cool and calm of the ball,” Landers said of Anderson. “She loves to play soccer and is a great kid.”
Anderson’s blast ended what was an entertaining battle between the two teams.
Glastonbury, the No. 4 ranked team in the tourney, was coming off a first round bye and Danbury entered as the No. 15 ranked team. The Hatters were coming off a 4-0 shutout of Manchester in the opening round and Landers wasn’t sure how his team would respond following six days without a game.
“Sometimes the first win of the tournament is the hardest one to get,” added Landers. “Anybody from Fairfield County is going to be tough. We know what kind of conference they play in and the battles they had.”
From the opening whistle the game was chippy with Angelillo and Pellicone mixing it up within the first minute.
Angellilo opened the scoring by blasting a lefty kick past Danbury’s keeper Mali Neperman in the 14th minute.
Sixteen minutes later, Carroll scored on a header after getting a perfectly placed cross from Alayna Taylor.
Carroll nearly gave the home team a three-goal advantage but her rocket shot ricocheted off the crossbar seven minutes into the second half.
Glastonbury had several chances in the second half to add a third goal, yet all the attempts were off the mark or saved by Neperman, opening the window for a Danbury rally.
Danbury’s Sophia Renteria scored a header in the 57th minute and then Caroline Dickson tied the match with 5:16 remaining in regulation.
Heading into two overtime periods and eventually in the penalty kicks, Angelillo said the seniors talked about the importance of finishing what they started on their home field.
“We are a team and we just had to work together and be a family,” added Angelillo.
Two days later, the Guardians advanced to the Class LL semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Fairfield-Warde.
Playing in their final game at GHS, it was a pair of seniors that combined for the game’s only goal when Carroll headed in a deep free kick from Shaheen with two minutes left in the game.
Radikas preserved the shutout with spectacular saves, featuring a diving save on the ground that she knocked over the crossbar and another on a one-on-one shot in the box.
Including the postseason, the win over Fairfield-Warde was the Guardians’ 15th victory this fall.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin