Newington boys' volleyball earned the top sports moment of 2019 after winning a third consecutive state championship on June 6
#1: Newington Spikers Complete Three-Peat
Newington boys’ volleyball did exactly what they said they would do at the beginning of last spring. The Indians won a third straight state championship after defeating Cheshire in four sets at the Class M finals on June 6 in Shelton. Seniors Teddy Fravel and Louis Egbuna combined for 27 kills and Leonel Caceres dished out 42 assists as the team pulled off the rare championship trifecta. It marked the program’s sixth title in the past eight seasons. Dynasty doesn’t do it justice anymore.
#2: Cromwell Hoopsters Dance on Sun
Cromwell girls’ basketball had a memorable tournament run, which culminated with a 60-51 victory over Sheehan in the Class M championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 17. Sadie Budzik scored a team-high 18 points and tourney hero Najla Cecunjanin added 15 points and eight rebounds as the Panthers won their second state title in four years, adding yet another banner to a crowded gymnasium at Cromwell High School.
#3: Lukens, Gwynn, Stolstajner Reach Hardwood Milestones
Rocky Hill’s Nikki Lukens became the all-time leading scorer in program history, scoring her 1,187th point in a game against New Britain on January 8. Wethersfield’s Nicole Gwynn and Cromwell’s Vanessa Stolstajner also reached scoring milestone, surpassing the 1,000-point mark. Gwynn accomplished it during a win over Newington on February 11 and Stolstajner passed the mark in a tourney victory over East Catholic on March 7.
#4: Middletown’s King of the Ring
Middletown wrestler Elijah Cyr won both the Class Finals and State Open championship in the 113-pound division. Cyr pinned Bristol Central’s Jacob Aldi to win the Class L championship on February 16 and then cemented his place as the state’s best wrestler in his weight class, defeating Trumbull’s Travis Longo to capture the State Open title on February 24 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
#5: Gaunt and DePinto Shine as Sophomores
Wethersfield’s Hadden Gaunt and Alanna DePinto each took home a state championship during their sophomore seasons in the pool. Gaunt won on the Class M Diving championship on March 6 and DePinto won the 100 Freestyle on November 20. Now a junior, Gaunt is preparing to defend his title this winter, while DePinto has two more seasons to compete starting next fall.
#6: Caracoglia’s Tremendous Tourney
Soccer star Anthony Caracoglia scored ten goals in Cromwell’s four Class S tournament games, spanning from November 11-19. The senior’s terrific tourney included a game-winning overtime goal in the opening round against Northwest Catholic and a four-game performance in a second-round win over Housatonic. Not a bad way to end an illustrious high school career.
#7: Tenney Lights Up Scoreboard
Derek Tenney exploded for 51 points and 15 rebounds in Wethersfield’s 90-84 victory over Bloomfield on January 28. The 51 points set a new program record, surpassing Michael Mozzicato’s 42-point performance against Windsor just a year earlier. Believe it or not, Tenney was just warming up for more heroics during baseball season.
#8: Highsmith Walks Off in Sunset
Dominque Highsmith is currently preparing for her first softball season at Central Connecticut State University, but it was moments like what happened on April 8 that got her there. Highsmith went 4-4, including crushing a walk-off homer to erase a two-run deficit, as Middletown beat Glastonbury 10-9. It was just one of the many memorable moments Highsmith had during her four years in Middletown.
#9: Bradley Breaks Record
Matt Bradley became the all-time leading scorer in Newington boys’ lacrosse history with a nine-assist outing against E.O. Smith in April 11. By the time his senior season ended, Bradley had piled on plenty more and finished his high school career with 195 total points, setting an extremely high bar that will be hard to top.
#10: Pestrichello Sinks Spartans
Quarterback Nick Pestrichello was far and away the most dynamic player on the field on October 25, accounting for all six of Newington’s touchdowns in a 42-35 upset victory over previously unbeaten Maloney. Pestrichello threw for 255 yards and a pair of scores and added 147 yards and four more touchdowns on the ground as the Indians erased a 14-0 deficit to earn the signature win.
#11: Stockman Stockpiling
Rocky Hill’s Elizabeth Stockman added to her trophy case in 2019, winning the 1600M and finished as the runner-up in the 3200M at the Class M championship on May 29. The senior has a chance to earn more hardware this winter and spring during the Indoor and Outdoor track season. It’s been a heck of a run, in more ways than one.
#12: Danas Lights up Farmington
Senior quarterback Chris Danas took to the October sky, throwing for 515 yards and five touchdowns as Middletown beat Farmington 37-21 on October 26. Danas finished the night with a perfect passer rating, completing 28 of 38 passes and averaging a robust 18.39 yards per completion. It was a night he’ll never forget, and a night Farmington’s secondary would rather forget.
#13: Cromwell Sprinters Win it All
Cromwell’s 1600 Sprint Medley team of Andraya Yearwood, Jordan Pare, Caitlin DellaRatta, and Cara Jordan won the state title at the Class S Indoor Track finals on February 7. The same relay team placed fourth at the State Open on February 16. There was literally nothing that slowed this foursome down.
#14: Primetime Moments for Frazier and Zocco
Newington basketball’s backcourt tandem of Ashanti Frazier and Karissa Zocco rose to the occasion during the first two round of the Class LL tourney. In the opening round, Frazier converted a three-point play to send the game into overtime and then came up with the game-clinching steal and free throw as the Indians defeated Shelton 54-50 on February 26. In round two, Zocco returned from a four-game injury absence to knocked down six three pointers, scoring a game-high 18 points in a 55-44 victory over Glastonbury on March 1. Look out world, because the dynamic duo is back at it this season.
#15: Baldwin Blanks Berlin
Tyler Baldwin pitched a complete game, one-hitter, striking out five as Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland defeated Berlin 2-0 on July 24, advancing to the Sectional Finals in the 19U American Legion Baseball tournament. Baldwin, who pitches for Cromwell in the spring, was an ace on a RCP pitching staff that allowed a state-low 1.9 runs per game during the regular season.
#16: Eagles Flawless on Links
Wethersfield girls’ golf finished the regular season undefeated (16-0) and won their second straight Central Connecticut Conference title. Senior Emily McKenna led the team all season, including shooting a tournament low 77 during the CCC finals on May 29. The Eagles are seeking a third straight conference crown this spring.
#17: Cyr Caps Career with Exclamation Point
Cromwell’s Zac Cyr saved his best performance for his last, scoring a career-high nine goals in a 14-2 win over Vinal Tech in the season finale on May 20. Cyr’s fabulous finish added to his team-high 79 points in 2019 and put a big red bow on an outstanding high school career at CHS.
#18: Indians and Eagles Hockey Make Tourney Runs
Both local co-op hockey teams made deep runs in the state tournament, each advancing to the semifinals. Newington won 15 of 20 regular season games and came within minutes of playing for a state title, thanks to all-state performances from Justin Stergos and Ethan Ranger. Wethersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville also won 15 regular season games and two tourney games, including a second round upset (4-1) over top-seed Watertown-Pomperaug on March 8. The Eagles were led by all-state recipients Jake Peckrul, Riordan Mertens, and Trevor Piecewicz.
#19: Tenney Strikes Again
Derek Tenney thrived in big moments and he did it again on May 15. The senior slugger jacked a walk-off home run and earned the win from the mound, after pitching scoreless seventh and eighth innings during Wethersfield’s 9-8 extra innings win over Glastonbury.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin