MADISON — Hand boys soccer coach Greg Cumpstone had a few options when junior forward Scott Testori went out of Monday night’s SCC tournament semifinal with a hip flexor injury.
His choice was to move junior Jason Wallack up top to forward. He created some scoring opportunities with his speed and craftiness — none more important than during the first overtime period.
Wallack was able to beat a pair of defenders and knock in a goal to give top seed Hand the 1-0 win over No. 4 Shelton at a windy Surf Club. The goal came with 3 minutes left in the first overtime period.
“The center back mishit a ball to the left back. It was a 50-50 ball. I was able to win it,” Wallack said. “I took the ball down the line. The left back chased me down and the center back came across (to challenge). I cut it in. I was in space in the middle of the box and I (scored).”
Said Cumpstone: “When (Wallack) gets the ball, you kind of get on the edge of your seat because he can make something happen.”
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 5, 2019
The Tigers (13-1-4) will meet No. 2 seed Guilford (11-1-6) in the SCC tournament final Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium.
“The team has worked so hard for this. … It means everything. To be in this position, it’s just surreal. I had to put it into that extra gear in overtime,” Wallack said.
Wallack just might be playing forward again on Wednesday night. Testori said he wasn’t sure if he would be able to go.
“Up top is a little bit more difficult. They have two center backs on you at all times,” Wallack said about opposing defenses.
Said Cumpstone: “(Testori) has to be able to run, to sprint and to jump with no pain, which I think is probably pretty unlikely, but we will see. He’s a special guy so hopefully, his powers of recovery will be good.”
Defender Cole Finke and midfielder Jack Wildermann both went off with injuries as well for the Tigers.
“We have a great group and even though those starters are great players, we knew we had guys on the bench would do the job and they did,” Cumpstone said.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 4, 2019
Guilford advanced to the final by defeating No. 3 Xavier in penalty kicks. Guilford and Hand tied twice during the regular season.
Other than the final play, both defenses, especially the goalkeepers, held up well throughout regulation. Shelton goalkeeper Reino Sawan made some tremendous diving saves in each half. His counterpart, Tim Perez, kept it scoreless with his diving save off a laser shot from Alexander Coleman with 10 seconds left.
“Give credit to Daniel Hand, they have a great team and a great coach,” Shelton coach Isaac Montalvo said. “I know the kids are upset, but I am so proud of them, the way they have worked the whole year long … I’m heartbroken right now to see some seniors to see their SCC season end, but you have to keep going.”
Shelton was the only team to beat Hand during the regular season, 3-1 at home back on Oct. 5. Hand exacted some revenge with a 1-0 win at the Surf Club on Oct. 28.
Hand won at Shelton en route to the 2017 SCC tournament title. Shelton beat Hand in overtime in last year’s quarterfinals.
“They are a great side,” Wallack said about Shelton. “They are kind of like the only other team in the league that plays the way we do. They like to dribble out of the back and they have great players. They are just a solid team.”
This will be Hand’s seventh trip to the SCC tournament final, winning championships in 2010 and 2017.
Star of the game
Jason Wallack, Hand: Scored the game’s only goal with 3 minutes left in the first overtime period.
“We kind of (made a decision) on the fly, but I have so much faith in Jason, I know how fantastic he is and I know he can do it.”
— Hand coach Greg Cumpstone on moving Jason Wallack forward to replace an injured Scott Testori.