MERIDEN — No. 6 Old Saybrook beat No. 2 Litchfield 2-0 in a Class S boys soccer semifinal game at Meriden’s Falcon Field Wednesday night in a game largely about space.
Saturday, in a quarterfinal win over Immaculate, the Cowboys (15-3-1) spent the afternoon with in-your-face defense against the Mustang offense. Wednesday, for the first half of a rematch from last year’s quarterfinal loss to these same Rams (13-3-3), the Cowboys hung back.
“We had space the whole time,” said Old Saybrook star Padraig Ryan.
Ryan and his teammates took advantage of it with a 6-2 first-half shot advantage that didn’t allow a Litchfield penetration for the first 11 minutes of the game.
Seven minutes later, Ryan dribbled to 10 yards from the Cowboys’ right goalpost, burying his shot on the other side of the net.
“We didn’t clear it,” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis. “Who knows why we didn’t press; they’re kids.”
Meanwhile, the other part of the Rams’ first-half domination came from the defense.
“We knew about (Litchfield stars Tim Donovan and Charlie Shanks),” said Old Saybrook coach Sam Barnes.
Using four defenders across the backfield (“It’s the way we always play,” said Barnes), long Litchfield clears in the early minutes had no chance while three and four defenders collapsed on Donovan and Shanks whenever they touched it in Old Saybrook territory.
“We knew about them and we were going out to shut them down,” said Ryan.
“We also knew about (Litchfield goalkeeper Colby Bunnell) allowing just 10 goals all year,” said Barnes. “We wanted to get him out of position so we played a lot of balls to the end line.”
Still, it was a dead-on direct kick by Ben O’Dell from midfield to the Litchfield penalty box that finally made Litchfield second-half pressure too late for real hope.
O’Dell’s kick with 14 seconds left in the first half skimmed off Enes Cecenjanin’s head into the goal for a 2-0 Ram lead at the half.
The Cowboys’ return to defensive pressure in the second half evened the on-field game but not the score.
“This is the best team I’ve ever had,” said Litchfield coach Andrulis.
This Saturday, against No. 4 Morgan, the defending Class S champion, Old Saybrook has a chance to prove it’s the best Class S team in the state, starting at 10 a.m. at Middletown High School.
OLD SAYBROOK 2, LITCHFIELD 0
(at Falcon Field, Meriden)
OLD SAYBROOK 2 0 – 2
LITCHFIELD 0 0 – 0
Goals: OS – Padraig Ryan; Enes Cecunjanin. Assist: Ben O’Dell. Shots: 10-3 Old Saybrook. Saves: OS – Matt Rothman 2. L – Colby Bunnell 5.
Records: Old Saybrook 13-3-3; Litchfield 15-3-1.