DANBURY—The little engine that could has plenty of steam left in it.
And the Immaculate boys soccer team is in a place it hasn’t touched in more than two decades: The Class S semifinals.
The Mustangs continued its hot postseason as goals in the second half from Connor Sahl and Tristan DiNatale gave Immaculate a 2-0 win over Old Lyme in the quarterfinals Friday. The win sets up a matchup with Holy Cross; the teams drew 0-0 early in the season.
“It’s incredible,” said Immaculate senior Hunter Kirkman. “The last four years have been leading to this; the semis is something we haven’t done in a long time. It’s awesome to be a part of it; I’m proud of the work we’ve put in this season.”
The first semifinal appearance since 1997 for the Mustangs wasn’t certain since DiNatale provided the insurance goal with 17:42 remaining.
“There aren’t any words to describe this season,” said Mustangs coach Steve Carneiro. “They had a lot of heart, desire and belief; I think that’s what I’m proud of.”
— Ryan Lacey (@RyanLacey11) November 15, 2019
Immaculate was on its heels to start the second half with the game goalless. Goalie Nick Iannetta came up with several big saves there while the Mustangs found their footing.
“He’s been big this entire season and it showed today,” Carneiro said. “We always tell him before the game that big time players show up in big time games and he and the backline did it.”
The game flipped on its head as as soon as Sahl, a freshman, found the back of the net thanks to a cross from Kirkman with 29 minutes left in the game. Immaculate took control of the contest and threatened to add to the lead before DiNitale finally did with a cool, low finish.”
“When we scored I think they were like what just happened?” Carneiro said. “We took over; in these types of games you have to throw skill out the window. It comes down to determination and winning the 50/50 balls.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tristan DiNatale, Immaculate: Led the front line and caused the visitors problems whenever the ball reached his feet.
“After we made the SWC semifinals that definitely set the standard for states,” said Kirkman, whose team improved to 12-6-3 this season. “We knew wanted to at least match what we did last year and make it to the quarterfinals. To surpass that is awesome.”