MERIDEN >> It’s often referred to as the beautiful game. During this year’s Class S boys soccer tournament, Coventry is showing why.
The third-seeded Patriots had another command performance Tuesday night in Meriden, knocking out Valley Regional, 4-0, in the state semifinals at Falcon Field.
“Last year they should have won Class S so we knew what was coming,” said longtime Valley Regional mentor Mick Fearon, who guided the Warriors to the S finals in 2010. ‘It’s one of them where at the end of the game you say the better team won.”
Three days earlier Coventry ousted another strong Shoreline program (Cromwell) in the quarterfinals. The Patriots will now take aim at Shoreline Conference champion Old Saybrook in a rematch of the 1982 Class S final (won by the Rams) on Saturday. The top-seeded and unbeaten Rams (19-0-2) edged Notre Dame-Fairfield in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“We worked hard to get here,” Coventry coach Paul Strycharz said. ‘“They’re ready. They knew the goal. First day of tryouts they knew where they wanted to be.”
Coventry (17-3-0) entered the tournament looking to avenge a 3-2 overtime loss against Somers in last year’s final. And their revenge tour has produced shutout victories over Sacred Heart, East Windsor, Cromwell, and Valley Regional. The Patriots have been equally impressive on offense, outscoring those four tourney opponents, 17-0.
“We have great individual players but it’s a group effort,” Strycharz added.
Coventry grabbed an early 1-0 lead. Junior Zach Stoddard slipped a nifty pass over to senior Harry Dejulius, who found some open space on the right side and drilled a shot past Warriors sophomore keeper Charles Haughton in the 9th minute.
“They’re a great group to watch,” Strycharz said. “They put on a great show.”
The Patriots continued to apply pressure throughout the first half while thwarting Valley’s offensive attack.
“Whenever the ball was played into our midfield players there was always two guys on them,” Fearon said. “They close you down so fast that you don’t have time to turn. They didn’t slow down the whole game.”
Finally, Patriots junior Mike Sisk was fouled inside the penalty box and senior Nick Erskine buried the penalty kick chance to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Valley got a pair of scoring opportunities from junior Charlie Ferrucci, including one bid early in the second half that forced Patriots senior keeper Chris Papas to make his only save.
But Coventry put a damper on Valley’s comeback chances when senior Sean Gannon scored on a high shot for a 3-0 advantage in the 45th minute. Junior Alec Erskine then capped the Patriots big night with a penalty kick goal in the 62nd minute.
Coventry outshot Valley, 10-3.
“We made a couple of high school mistakes that you’ve got to expect from high school aged players,” Fearon said. “That’s just the reality. Coventry’s excited to be back in the final and it should be a real good game with them and Saybrook.”
Haughton made three saves for the Warriors (12-5-4), who reached the semifinals with wins over East Hampton, HMTCA, and Lyman Memorial.
“It was a good run,” Fearon said. “Yes, you hoped we could have played better tonight but we played as well as we could against a quality team.”