CLINTON >> Valley Regional got a pair of late second-half goals from D.J. Berardis and Kevin Cole and goalie Michael Castelli earned the shutout with seven saves as the Warriors captured their third consecutive Shoreline Conference boys soccer championship with a 2-0 victory against top-seeded Old Saybrook Friday at Clinton’s Indian River Complex.
In the second game of the championship doubleheader, Lyme-Old Lyme junior forward Julia Strycharz knocked in a header off a corner kick from Hannah O’Brien in the 76th minute to lift the Wildcats past defending champion Portland 1-0 in a rematch of last year’s title game.
It was Old Lyme’s ninth SLC championship.
The Old Saybrook boys were seeking their first Shoreline title since 1964. But Valley had other ideas.
“I think we’ve got the curse,” said Old Saybrook coach Sam Barnes. “We played hard and I’m proud of my kids but (Valley) outplayed us tonight. I thought we had some better opportunities in the first half, but they finished their opportunities in the second half and we didn’t. And that was the difference.”
Berardis’ goal came in the 62nd minute. Valley senior captain Matt Cole launched a long direct kick on goal and Old Saybrook keeper Luke Sumby knocked the ball away. But the ball deflected off Valley’s Jack Simoneau right to Berardis.
“I just wanted that goal so bad,” said Berardis. “The keeper made a save, the ball rolled and I said, ‘I’m getting to that ball first’ and I got to it and poked it in.”
Valley, which was outshot 17-11, added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute when Kevin Cole finished a rebound off another Matt Cole direct kick.
“We scored at the right time,” said Valley Regional coach Mick Fearon. “We talked about getting to the far post and both goals came from plays at the far post. You have to score to win, but I think defensively we played really well today.”
The No. 3 Warriors (14-3-1) limited the scoring chances from Old Saybrook forward Danny Murphy (28 goals). The Rams (15-2-1) are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class S tournament.
“They did a good job shutting down Murphy tonight,” added Barnes.
Said Murphy: “(Valley’s) a great side. I just wish we could have gotten one and come out a little harder. We just couldn’t get the ball past their goalie.”
It was, indeed, Valley’s night. Again.
“Three in a row, not many people can say that,” said Valley senior captain Matt Cole. “Everyone said it was going to be a rebuilding year, but we wanted to prove to everyone that it wasn’t.”
In the nightcap, No. 4 Old Lyme (12-5-1), which has won 10 of its last 11 games, turned the tables on top-seeded Portland (13-5). A year ago on this same field, the Highlanders’ Amanda Ghent scored on a header with 30 seconds left to give Portland their first SLC title.
“Last year it was the reverse situation, so we tip our hats to the Wildcats,” said Portland coach Sandy Booth. “It was going to come down to the last mistake and we didn’t mark on that corner and they were able to get a head on it.”
The game seemed headed for overtime when Old Lyme forced a corner kick. O’Brien launched a beautiful kick and Strycharz headed it over the arms of Portland goalie Marisa DiMare.
“I didn’t even know what was happening,” said Strycharz. “It felt like I was dreaming after. I just headed it and it went in. It was awesome.”
Said Old Lyme coach Paul Gleason: “We had five starters injured at the beginning of the season and it took them awhile to recuperate. We finally got the team on the field that we needed and we started playing some much better soccer.”