MIDDLETOWN >> The spectacular area soccer season comes to a close with three area teams fighting for state championships today at Middletown High School’s Rosek-Skubel Stadium.
The first is the Class M state championship girls game between Haddam-Killingworth and Waterford at 10:30 a.m. In the second game, the Cromwell boys will play Bolton for the Class S state crown at 1 p.m., and in the third game of the tripleheader at MHS, the Portland girls will take on Old Saybrook for the Class S championship.
The success in area soccer wasn’t just limited to the three teams in title contention today. Xavier came up just short, losing to Ridgefield 2-1 in the Class LL semifinal round after going through 22 games undefeated. The Falcons wound up at 18-1-4.
Mercy also advanced to the Class LL semis, losing a 3-1 decision earlier in the week at Middletown High to undefeated Suffield.
The Valley Regional boys won the Shoreline Conference crown and advanced to the Class S semifinals and the Coginchaug Regional girls and East Hampton boys made it to the Class S quarterfinal round.
The Middletown High girls were runners-up in the Central Connecticut Conference tournament, defeating Class LL teams Hall and Glastonbury before bowing to Northwest Catholic, and coach Sal Emanuele turned the MHS boys soccer program around as his Blue Dragons went undefeated in their final 10 regular season matches.
In today’s first title game at MHS, it is brave new world for Haddam-Killingworth as the Cougars have never been to a title game. Coach Eric Grant’s team had a 10-3-2 regular season mark and qualified for the Shoreline Conference playoffs.
After a so-so start to the regular season – H-K was 2-2-2 after six matches – the team went 8-1 down the stretch with its only loss a 3-2 overtime decision to Coginchaug.
In the state tourney, the Cougars stunned CCC-South power Berlin 3-2, then beat Watertown of the Naugatuck Valley League in the quarterfinals 3-1, then beat Weston 1-0 to earn a berth in the championship game this morning.
Waterford of the Eastern Connecticut Conference was 12-2-2 in the regular season and defeated Holy Cross of the Naugatuck Valley League 4-0, Sheehan of the Southern Connecticut Conference 1-0 and Tolland of the CCC, 2-1 in the tournament.
This is Waterford’s second trip to a title game. The Lancers, who are coached by Rob Brule, lost to Avon in 2002. Waterford is led by Melina Spanos, who is going to the University of Hartford in the fall. She leads the team in goals with 24.
The second game of the day pits tourney veteran Cromwell against upstart Bolton. Cromwell’s boys have been to five championship games and have won three titles in 1992 (2-1 over Old Lyme), 1998 (2-0 over Old Saybrook) and 2009 (1-0 over Lyman Memorial).
The Panthers were 12-3-1 in the regular season and after a loss in the SLC playoffs, have won three tourney games, 2-1 over H-K in overtime, 2-1 over East Hampton and a spectacular 1-0 win over Lyme/Old Lyme Wednesday night. The win over Lyme/Old Lyme was especially sweet as Cromwell lost to that team 2-1 in overtime on the last day of the regular season, denying the Panthers the SLC regular season title.
“The tournament game with Lyme/Old Lyme was two good sides playing the best they can,” said Cromwell coach Jon Harder. The match was 0-0 until Derek Parker scored with 5:15 left in regulation.
The title appearance marks the end of a couple of uncharacteristically lean years at Cromwell. Two years ago the Panthers were 4-10-2 and last year they were better, but were bounced from the tourney in the second round by Somers.
Key players for Cromwell are forward Ryan Hopley, midfielder Ardit Statovci – who assisted on Parker’s game-winner Wednesday – and keeper Ryan Murphy.
“Murphy has been phenomenal all season,” said Harder.
This is Bolton’s first time to a title game. In 2010 Bolton was 0-16 and in 2011 was 0-15-1. But under coach Brian Dube, a former player at Bolton High, the program has turned around.
This year Bolton was 12-2-2 and in the state tournament has defeated Housatonic Regional 2-1, St. Paul of the Naugatuck Valley League 5-1 and then stunned SLC champ Valley Regional 2-1 Wednesday night to punch its ticket to MHS today.
The players to watch for Bolton are midfielder J.D. Stearns, Colin Cordero and keeper Jack Langton. Bolton’s only losses were to Class M Suffield and Class L Avon.
At 3:30, the Portland girls take on Old Saybrook for the Class S girls crown. It is Portland’s second straight appearance in the title game. The Highlanders lost to Immaculate of Danbury 5-0 last year. “We got toasted,” said coach Norman Booth.
Neither team has won a state championship.
The consensus star of Old Saybrook is goalkeeper Mia Neas, who is widely regarded as one of the best keepers in Class S. Coach Larry Bright turned the program around and went to the semifinals a couple years back losing to Immaculate.
Old Saybrook was 9-5-2 in the regular season, but has won five in a row, including tournament wins over the Academy of the Holy Family/Norwich Tech 8-0, Coginchuaug 1-0 on penalty kicks, and St. Bernard 1-0 on penalty kicks in the semifinal round.
Portland was 12-4 in the regular season. The Highlanders have tourney wins over Wheeler of North Stonington 4-0, Bolton 1-0 and Coventry Monday at Middletown High, 2-1.
“The girls really wanted to get back to the championship game,” said Booth. “Now we’ll see what the soccer gods have in store for us.”