OLD SAYBROOK >> Powered by a four-goal performance from senior Ashton Reina, the Old Saybrook boys soccer team advanced to the Shoreline Conference championship game with a dominating 4-1 semifinal victory over Haddam-Killingworth Tuesday at Old Saybrook High School.
The Rams will be seeking their first SLC title since 1964 when they meet Morgan on Friday night at Portland. Then Huskies edged Old Lyme, 1-0, in overtime in the other semifinal.
“I know the kids are excited,” said Rams coach Sam Barnes, who notched his 200th career win earlier this season. “They want to win so they’re going to play their best. It’s been a long time. We’ve been to the finals several times.”
Reina got the top-seeded Rams (15-0-2) off to a terrific start by scoring two goals in the opening minute. The first goal appeared to be a crossing pass that took a quick left turn into the far corner. The second goal came off a corner kick from Austin Hilger just 43 seconds later.
“All of us were hyped up and ready to play,” Reina said. “Once we scored that first goal we could not stop.”
The 2-0 deficit seemed to stun the Cougars, who were coming off a 4-3 overtime upset against Cromwell in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“It’s hard for the kids to keep their heads up after something like that,” H-K first-year coach Denis Recchia said. “Hopefully, we’ll respond better in the future and try to keep those goals out. The first goal was a miracle but the other ones were pretty good.”
Barnes was also leery of the quick advantage.
“That can be dangerous because you score that early and you think you’re winning and then you sit back and all of a sudden they take one to you,” Barnes said. “So I was a little nervous with that but we came out on fire.”
The Rams, who outshot H-K 23-9, continued to apply pressure.
Reina’s third goal came off a a quick shot into the far corner in the 51st minute.
“Ashton’s a great player,” Barnes added. “He’s physical and he’s strong. When he’s on, he’s on and when he’s off other guys have to pick it up and that’s what we’ve been doing this year. That’s why we’re such a dangerous team because we’ve got other guys that can score too.”
H-K junior Kyle Crandall closed the gap to 3-1 in the 66th minute. Crandall beat a defender up front and snuck a left-footed shot just inside the goal post.
Reina capped his big day two minutes later with a header off a direct kick from Ben Van Vliet.
“We made it to the finals my freshman year,” Reina said. “This is a great accomplishment for my team.”
Old Saybrook keeper Jonah Nucci made eight stops, while his counterpart, H-K’s Jack Spooner made four saves.
The Cougars fell to 7-7-2.
“We’re pretty young so it’s been a good year for us,” Recchia said. “We’re better than our record says but Old Saybrook is pretty tough. I think we have a lot to look forward too.”