East Hampton’s Parker Gustine controls the ball as he is pursued by Cromwell’s Jack Wood during the Bellringers 1-0 win over Cromwell on Oct. 26. Gustine assisted Ethan Marshall for the only goal of the match as the team closed the regular season at home, registering their 11th victory.
After making the state championship match a year ago, the boys soccer team at East Hampton High School eyes another successful tournament run this fall.
The Bellringers closed the regular season schedule with a 1-0 win over Shoreline Conference (SLC) rival Cromwell last Thursday, wrapping up an 11-2-2 regular season.
Playing on an unseasonably warm late-October afternoon at East Hampton High School, senior Ethan Marshall scored the only goal, hamming home a shot past Cromwell’s all-conference goalie Thomas Garcia midway through the first half.
“They moved me out to right wing and luckily Parker [Gustine] saw me on the corner and set me up with a nice shot on goal,” recalled Marshall.
Marshall’s blast proved to be the difference as East Hampton’s swarming defense was flawless for 80 minutes and the team’s efficient offense controlled the tempo for much of the match.
Cromwell head coach Angelo Morello called the Bellringers “the best team in our conference” and added, “I thought we played better in the second half, but they are skilled, they are tough.”
The win earned East Hampton a first round bye in the SLC tourney and Marshall said it was important to head into the postseason on a high note.
“We wanted to play hard and put pressure on the other team and we got the job done,” added Marshall. “We want to build off it and continue to get wins.”
After winning their first nine games this fall, East Hampton ran into a few roadblocks as the season aged — mostly on the injury front.
Starting goalie Thomas Fenton missed the last five games of the regular season with a concussion and sophomore standout Colin
Marshall suffered a leg injury early in the season that has kept him out of action since September.
“We’ve had to look to our bench and see who can step up,” East Hampton head coach Rocco Christiana stated. “The players are really starting to work as a unit and the depth of our team got better this year – we are more well-rounded.”
Filling the void in net is senior captain Finn Piper, a field player who stepped up during Fenton’s absence and posted his first shutout in the win over Cromwell.
Christiana called Piper the “heart and soul of the team”, praising him for his continued sacrifice for the betterment of the program.
“All these kids have huge hearts and they all work hard,” added Christiana, who is the reigning SLC Coach of the Year in 2022 after guiding the Bellringers to a conference title.
After winning the SLC tournament a season ago, the Bellringers worked through the state tournament before falling to Old Saybrook (2-0) in the Class S state championship on an ice-covered field at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford.
Ethan Marshall said being on the cusp of a state title fueled a team featuring a pair of returning all-conference players in Fenton and Will Nafis.
“We were super motivated; we're even more motivated than we were last year,” he added. “We’re building on what we did [last season] and are playing for the players that are injured. The guys that can’t play, we are out there for them.”
East Hampton .800 winning percentage is the eighth-best in Class S with the state tourney slated to state next week.
Despite the injury setbacks and a gauntlet of a schedule, the Bellringers are again in prime position for a postseason push.
Christiana added that no matter who is on the field, the expectations are the same.
“When we lose someone, someone else steps up,” he added. “We bring some other people up and continue to play hard.”
Visit ciacsports.com for a complete list of fall’s high school sports tournament schedules and results.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin