Looking back at the area's top soccer teams of all time

Published on Wednesday, 22 April 2020 21:13
Written by RYAN CHICHESTER

@ryanchichester1

The local area isn’t exactly loaded with history on the soccer front, but in recent years, a number of local teams have begun to drastically change that narrative.

There have been three state champions since the new millennium, and three local teams have made the state final in the past four years, with the Plainville boys soccer team winning it all in 2018. There have been improbable runs by low-seeded teams, as well as dominant campaigns buoyed by perfect seasons.

Here are the most memorable local, boys and girls, soccer teams of all time:

NEWINGTON BOYS, 1950

One of the first state titles for Newington High School, the Indians took down Wethersfield 1-0 in the Class L-M state championship, though they lost in the rematch seven years later in a 3-0 loss to the Eagles in the state final. The 1950 squad is still the only soccer team at Newington to win a state championship, and 1957 was the last time the program made an appearance until nearly five decades later.

NEWINGTON BOYS, 2000

The Indians’ last state final appearance came at the start of the new millennium, looking like one of the best teams in the state in 2000 after cruising to a 13-2 record and claiming the No. 4 seed in the Class L state tournament after winning a coin toss over New Milford.

Newington’s march to the final began in the second round against Ledyard, where the Indians kicked off a dominant stretch of defense, going three straight tournament games without allowing a goal. After edging Ledyard 1-0 in the second round, Newington silenced New Milford 3-0 in the quarterfinals to meet ninth-seeded Bristol Eastern in the semifinals. Playing for their first state title appearance in nearly 50 years, the Indians once again put forth an overwhelming defensive effort in a 2-0 win over the Lancers. Sophomore Eric Boisvert scored just over a minute into the second half to break a scoreless tie, and Dan Heleniak added the insurance tally with 4:28 left in the match, though based on the way Newington’s defense was playing in the state tournament, Boisvert’s goal would have been plenty.

Newington only allowed four shots all game in what was the third win over Eastern that season. That set up a date with a familiar foe in Wethersfield in the final, marking the third time the two teams faced off in the state championship. The two teams battled into overtime before the Eagles came away with a 2-1 victory, leaving the Indians just short of breaking a school-wide state championship drought that had stretched back to 1980.

ST. PAUL BOYS, 1969, 1970

The Falcons reached two straight state championship games in 1969 and 1970, and while they came up short in both contests, it was still an impressive run of success that stands as the only time in area soccer history that a local school reached a state final in consecutive seasons.

St. Paul struggled each time it reached a state final, losing 4-0 to Guilford in the 1969 Class M state championship before falling 8-0 to Windsor Locks in the 1970 title match. Fortunately for the Falcons, their state championship would arrive, though it would take a decade to materialize.

ST. PAUL BOYS, 1980

Ten years after losing in their second state championship game in a row, the Falcons were back to finish the job in 1980. Finishing the regular season with an impressive 13-1-2 record, St. Paul earned the No. 4 seed in the Class M state tournament and was ready to hang the first state championship banner in program history.

Backed by All-State talents Fran Tetreault and Tom Thompson, the Falcons marched to the state final behind a lockdown defense that shut out Morgan, the 16th seed, 4-0 in the first round, then blanked eighth-seeded New London 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Sixth-seeded Farmington cracked St. Paul’s defensive armor in the semifinals, but the Falcons responded with an offensive outburst in what was a 6-2 win to get back to the state title game for the first time in 10 years.

A Cinderella in Suffield, the bracket’s 15th seed, waited in the final. Suffield’s improbable run began with an overtime win over third-seeded Bethel in the first round and continue with a 2-0 win over top-seeded Windsor Locks in the semifinals. What looked like a team of destiny became another victim of the Falcon’s suffocating defense, as St. Paul cruised to a 2-0 win at Hall High School to claim the program’s first-ever state championship.

ST. PAUL BOYS, 1984

The Falcons were back for more in 1984, and looked like a team that wanted a second state championship after going unbeaten in a 12-0-4 regular season, good for the third seed in the Class L state tournament.

After a convincing 5-1 win over Bullard Havens Tech in the first round, St. Paul silenced Daniel Hand 2-0 in the quarterfinals, then took down No. 2-seeded and undefeated New Canaan 3-1 in the semifinals to get back to the state championship game. The final was a thriller, with the Falcons and eighth-seeded Wethersfield battling into double overtime, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw, making St. Paul and the Eagles co-champions. The Falcons’ second state championship came thanks in large part to Mark Anderson, who was named All-State in 1984.

BERLIN GIRLS, 1998

Is the 1998 Redcoats squad the most dominant soccer team the local area has ever seen? They certainly have a compelling case for that label.

Berlin rolled to an undefeated 16-0-0 regular season in 1998, the lone team in Class M that won all 16 regular season games. After a bye in the first round, the Redcoats almost saw their magical season cut short at the hands of 16th-seeded North Haven, but the team found a way to grind out a 3-2 win before shutting out Daniel Hand, the No. 9 seed, in the quarterfinals. Berlin’s strong defensive play continued into the semifinals, where the Redcoats silenced 12th-seeded Darien 3-0 to advance to the program’s first-ever state championship appearance.

Taking on third-seeded East Lyme, which finished with a 13-1-2 regular season record, Berlin secured a 3-1 victory to hang the school’s first soccer state championship banner, which remains the only one in Redcoats history.

The 1998 Berlin team was stacked, boasting All-State talents in Michelle Crowe, Athina Panagopoulos and Lindsay Pulito.

For Pulito, it was one of four All-State selections during her illustrious career, and 1998 was her first of two All-New England and All-American selections. A team captain during that 1998 season, Pulito was named MVP of the state championship match.

BERLIN GIRLS, 2017

The Redcoats’ state championship team of 1998 may be the program’s only title, but the 2017 team may just be the most unforgettable. After a lackluster 8-8-0 regular season, Berlin trudged into the Class M state tournament as the No. 20 seed, but the Redcoats were about to hit their stride at just the right time.

First came a 2-0 victory over 13th-seeded East Catholic in the first round, then a 7-0 shellacking of foruth-seeded Platt Tech in the second round. The run continued with a close 2-1 win over Cromwell in the quarterfinals, setting up what would be one of the most memorable games in program history against top-seeded Lewis Mills in the semifinals.

Two 40-minute halves and two overtime periods weren’t enough to settle a trip to the final, so the two teams went into penalty kicks. Berlin goalkeeper Lindsay Walsh stopped three of four penalty shots, and on the Redcoats’ final penalty kick, Julia Sisti found the back of the net to continue an improbable tournament run and set up a matchup with Granby, the bracket’s No. 2 seed, in the state championship game.

The magic ran out in the state final, as Berlin fell 3-0 to the Bears, but the 2017 season remains one of the most unforgettable soccer seasons the school has ever seen. Sisti was named All-State for her productive season.

SOUTHINGTON GIRLS, 2002

The Blue Knights’ only state championship came in a historically dominant season where the team went 14-0-2 during the regular season, good for second best in Class LL. The dominance appeared to be short lived by the time Southington reached the second round, where the Blue Knights needed a 3-1 win in penalty kicks to lock up a 1-0 victory over 18th-seeded Bunnell and avoid a massive upset.

The close calls continued in the quarterfinals, where the Blue Knights edged seventh-seeded7 Danbury 1-0, then needed another 3-1 win in penalty kicks to claim a 3-2 victory over sixth-seeded South Windsor and advance to the program’s first-ever state final appearance.

Once again, it came down to the wire, as Southington battled Fairfield, the No. 9 seed, into double overtime, and the teams settled on a scoreless tie, making the Blue Knights co-champions.

SOUTHINGTON GIRLS, 2019

They say the best team doesn’t always win it all, and the 2019 Blue Knights might embody that sentiment more than most.

Southington didn’t lose a game until the state final. In fact, it never trailed in a game until giving up the lone goal of the state championship match against Glastonbury.

After a 14-0-2 regular season, the Blue Knights earned the top seed in the Class LL state tournament and didn’t allow a goal until the final. A thrilling 1-0 win over defending champion Ridgefield in the semifinals set up a showdown with the third-seeded Tomahawks at Veterans Stadium. The two teams battled into the second half scoreless, until a late goal by Glastonbury put Southington behind for the first time. The Blue Knights couldn’t come back, but they still staked their claim as one of the best teams in the state, and one of the best soccer teams Southington has ever seen. Abigail Sowa and Allison Carr were both named All-State in a memorable season for the Blue Knights, though one that ended with frustration.

PLAINVILLE BOYS, 2018

Let’s conclude with a team that rivaled the 2017 Berlin girls team as the most improbable local state finalist, though this Blue Devils team finished the job and won it all.

Plainville stacked its regular season schedule in 2018, finishing 8-7-1 against some of the best competition in the state, though it led to a No. 23 seed in the Class M state tournament. There, the Blue Devils showed the benefit of their tough road to the postseason, winning 4-1 over 10th-seeded Montville and 3-1 over Northwestern, the 26 seed, to reach the quarterfinals against second-seeded Granby. In one of the most thrilling matches of the season, Plainville won 5-4 in penalty kicks to claim a 2-1 win over the Bears, then carried that momentum into the semifinals with a 2-1 win over third-seeded Stonington to secure a trip to the state final, where top-seeded Ellington waited.

The Knights and Blue Devils were held scoreless until the final 12 minutes of the second half, when James Raucci took a feed from tournament MVP Dane Stephens and found the back of the net for the lone goal in a 1-0 win and the first state title in program history. Goalkeeper Sergio Zaldivar pitched a shutout and was named All-State, as was Mike Torres.

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or rchichester@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington on Wednesday, 22 April 2020 21:13. Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2020 21:16.