WEST HAVEN – Coventry has played for a boys soccer state championship four times in its history but had yet to win a title, including last year. The school’s wait has finally ended.
Behind goals from Jared Cote and Zach Stoddard and a defense which did not allow a goal in the state tournament, third-seeded Coventry took home the Class S state title with a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Old Saybrook Saturday afternoon at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven.
The victory marked Coventry’s first state championship in four appearances and allowed this team to rebound from last season’s double-overtime loss to Somers in the state final.
“Somers was a quality crew and they beat us,” Coventry coach Paul Strycharz said about last season’s defeat. “This is a quality crew too. We did not change much. This is a team. The team defense did not allow one goal in the state tournament. The guys were magical back there.”
The Patriots are no strangers to defense as they posted 10 shutouts in the regular season and added five more in the state tournament, outscoring opponents 19-0 in the postseason to take home the title.
“The defense really stepped up,” Cote said after his team finished the year 18-3-0. Our defense is not just the back four. It is everyone on the field. We try to prevent the quick counter.”
Cote made sure his defense would have offense to work with as he struck just eight minutes, five seconds into the contest. Taking a pass from junior Michael Sisk, the senior buried a shot past Old Saybrook goalkeeper Jonah Nucci for the only goal the Patriots would need.
Coventry held an 8-2 shot advantage in the first half and increased its lead to 2-0 with 23:31 remaining in the opening half. Sean Gannon, who was named the game’s most valuable player, came down the left side and fed Stoddard, who shot to the lower corner for a 2-0 advantage.
“All year long, we talked about it,” Strycharz said. “We told them the only way to forget that memory (Somers) was to do something better this year.”
For top-seeded Old Saybrook, the loss closes a campaign which saw the Rams suffer their first loss of the season and close the campaign 20-1-2, The Rams were searching for their first state title since 1983 when they won the second of consecutive titles.
“They are a quality club,” Old Saybrook coach Sam Barnes said. “They came out motivated today after last year’s overtime loss. They were motivated to win. My hat’s off to them. They did everything we thought they would do. They came ready to play.”
Old Saybrook did not have many quality scoring opportunities in the contest and finished with just five shots on goal.
Justin Phillips was stopped by Coventry goalkeeper Chris Papas from 35 yards out with 19 minutes remaining in the game and Papas denied a free kick by Austin Reynolds from 30 yards out with 3:45 remaining.
“This shows we can come together as a team,” Cote said. “We set our minds early in the season to winning a championship.”
Old Saybrook’s best scoring opportunity in the first half came with five minutes remaining as a header by Phillips off a corner kick sailed wide of the goal.
Papas finished the game with five saves for Coventry, while Nucci made 10 saves in the loss for the Rams.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated this was Coventry’s first state title since 1982. Old Saybrook actually defeated Coventry in the final. It has been corrected to say this was Coventry’s first boys soccer championship.