The SLC stretches past Class S

Yesterday I wrote about how deep the Shoreline Conference was and focused on the Class S tournaments, but completely forgot about Class M. I just looked at the girls tournament results and Haddam-Killingworth will be playing for the Class S soccer championship.

H-K may play a mostly Class S schedule in the Shoreline Conference, but as I said yesterday, it is probably the deepest in the state, especially in girls soccer. They will be playing Waterford for the title on Saturday and although it’s tough to make a prediction, these two schools have a common opponent we can base some of that off of.

Both teams played Woodstock this year. Woodstock earned the #7 seed in the Class L tournament and won their first game 6-0 over Fermi before losing to Bunnell.

In the third game of the season for the Cougars, they tied Woodstock 2-2 in the northeast corner of the state. In the last game of the season for Waterford, the Lancers lost to Woodstock at home 3-2. There is not much to go by with this common opponent. One game was played early in the season, the other late and I don’t know anything about the Woodstock Academy. The point is, like I’ve been trying to make is, the Shoreline Conference is so good.

#5 H-K beat #12 Berlin, #4 Watertown and #16 Weston to make the finals. #3 Waterford beat #14 Holy Cross, #27 Sheehan and #2 Tolland. We will see what happens on Saturday, but the moral of the story is, the SLC is deep.

Three of eight teams playing for a girls soccer state championship are from the Shoreline. The next closest is the SCC where Branford and Guilford will play for the Class L title.

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How deep is the Shoreline Conference?

You may know by now how much I love the Shoreline Conference (especially volleyball), but I have been noticing during tournament time, how good they really are.

Let’s start with girls soccer since the finals are almost set.

Before the year started, I went to Portland High School to do season previews for both the boys and girls soccer teams. The boys were coming off a winless season and the girls, a trip to the Class S finals. Coach Sandy Booth told me the girls had two goals this season, “get back to the SLC tournament and make the state tournament.” They have now done both.

Portland defeated Coventry 2-1 Monday night to secure their second straight state finals appearance. They lost to perennial power Immaculate of Danbury last year 5-0 (Immaculate moved to Class L this year). The Highlanders were expected to contend for a state title this year, but coming into the tournament as the #5 seed was a little low. Yes, anywhere in the top-10 is a contender, but coming off the season they had before, without losing much, Portland had high expectations.

They received a first round bye and then defeated #21 Wheeler (5-0), #4 Bolton (1-0) and #16 Coventry (2-1) to advanced to the Class S finals.

But this isn’t about Portland girls soccer, it’s about the Shoreline Conference.

On the other side of the bracket, #2 St. Bernard will play #11 Old Saybrook on Tuesday for a spot in the final vs. Portland. So how strong is the SLC? Eight of the teams finished the regular season with a record above .500 and nine made the state tournament. 38% of the Class S tournament was made up of the Shoreline Conference. #20 Morgan was the lowest seed, but the next lowest was #13 East Hampton, who finished the regular season with a 8-5-2 record; including a win against #3 Coginchaug early in the season.

Old Saybrook went 9-5-2 in the regular season in the SLC with keys wins over Old Lyme and East Hampton.

Basically in Shoreline Conference girls soccer, they beat up on themselves all fall and when they got to the tournament, they are taking it out on everyone else. We could have an all SLC girls soccer final and if that happens, I won’t be surprised.

Boys soccer is just as strong.

Last week I was at a Class S second round game between conference opponents, Cromwell and Haddam-Killingworth. The Panthers defeated the Cougars 2-1 in OT and moved on to play…surprise, another SLC opponent in East Hampton. As a matter of fact, after Cromwell plays Old Lyme in the semifinals on Wednesday, there will have been four all-SLC matchups in the Class S tournament with the possibility of one in the finals.

Much like on the girls side, more than half of the conference made the boys tournament (30% of the field represented by the SLC). #18 Lyman Memorial was the lowest seed for the conference with a 7-8-1 record. Old Saybrook gained the top seed after thouroughly dominating the regular season (14-1-1). Their only loss came to Cromwell in OT and they tied Westbrook, which was the biggest shock of the year. Westbrook only won once all season.

Three of the four teams playing in the Class S semifinals are from the Shoreline Conference, so it’s very likely that we could have another all-SLC final, although this #2 Bolton team is not going to be easy for the #3 Valley Regional Warriors. Bolton outscored their opponents 52-23 on the season and 7-2 in the state tournament. Valley Regional also has an explosive offense, but it will be tough.

On the other side, Cromwell is playing Old Lyme. The two met in the last game of the regular season with Old Lyme winning 2-1 in OT. The Panthers are playing some great soccer right now and have the opportunity, if Valley Regional wins, to not play a single team outside of conference in the state tournament.

Now to where I call my high school sports expertise, at least in the fall: volleyball.

Once again, the Shoreline Conference is dominating.

Morgan and Haddam-Killingworth entered the tournament as the top two seeds and only Morgan is still standing, but it took another SLC power to take out H-K…East Hampton.

The teams met twice during the regular season (H-K won both meetings) and twice in postseason (East Hampton won both meetings). As you can tell, there is too much parody in the conference, minus Morgan. The top of SLC volleyball was very good and the bottom was not. I wouldn’t say it’s the deepest conference, but very well might be the most competitive in the state. Morgan has won 22 straight title, but that’s besides the point, the rest of the league is catching up.

H-K has a very good team overall. They have some of the best attackers in the conference and maybe the state and play with great ball movement. East Hampton hasn’t even had a volleyball program for that long, but ever since John Post came in, they have been winners. In 2011 they made the state semifinals and are back two years later. Plus, the Bellringers are playing their best volleyball of the season right now and have a great chance to make the finals if they can beat Lyman Memorial.

Like I’ve said before, Coginchaug may be the most talented team in the conference. They have all the pieces and have shown signs of greatness, with set victories over Morgan on two occasions. Hale-Ray and Valley Regional aren’t in the same conversation as the top four, but are still good teams and didn’t qualify and win matches in the tournament for no reason. It just goes to show how deep the Shoreline Conference is.

In three separate tournaments, the SLC has had seven teams make the semifinals out of a possible 12. If you don’t think the Shoreline Conference is the deepest in the state or at least Class S, than who is?

Preview: Class S volleyball quarterfinals

I was right!

All six Shoreline Conference volleyball teams won their second round games on Wednesday proving once again that the SLC is the deepest volleyball conference in the state.

Today, those six teams take the court again, four of them playing one another.

First up, Morgan vs. Valley Regional: Morgan lost two sets to conference opponents this year and it was not Valley Regional. This one is easy. No SLC team has been able to solve the Huskies and the Warriors won’t this time either. Morgan wins 3-0.

Hale-Ray vs. Coventry: Granby snapped Coventry’s 76 match winning streak in the first game of the season, but the Patriots are still one of the elite teams in the state. Hale-Ray beat who they were supposed to beat in the Shoreline Conference and even had a 3-0 victory over Valley Regional midway through the season, but they are not a top team. The Noises are lucky to have gotten a good draw and made it this far. Coventry will send Hale-Ray home 3-0.

East Hampton vs. Haddam-Killingworth: A rematch of the SLC semifinals where the Bellringers won 3-1 after dropping the first set 25-10. I was at this game and all I can say is, it was the most exciting high school volleyball match I have seen. Tonight is sure to be another thriller. John Post has the postseason coaching experience, but so does Rich Langer (over 500 career wins). This one is old school vs. new school. H-K has the passing and attackers, East Hampton needs to do everything right in order to take this one. The Bellringers don’t have as much of an attack, they will have to play great defense and not make mistakes. I can’t predict this one, but I do believe it will go five sets.

Coginchaug vs. Lyman Memorial: This will also be a great match if the best Coginchaug team shows up. The Blue Devils were arguably the most talented team in the SLC, they just need to put it all together. Caryn Sibiskie is one of the top blockers in the state and Sydney Trusty might be one of the top servers and attackers, but Lyman Memorial will be tough. The Bulldogs played a tough schedule, including some larger schools. This is a tough task for Coginchaug, but the good news is, they haven’t seen them yet this year. As much as I want Coginchaug to move on, I think they lose 3-1.

My semifinals: Morgan will play Coventry in the state tournament for the first time since 2009 when the Patriots defeated the Huskies 3-0 in the finals. If this happens, Coventry will beat Morgan 3-2 and advance to their 10th straight Class S state final.

Lyman Memorial will play East Hampton or H-K: I still can’t pick a winner between the Bellringers and Cougars. If EH wins, they will lose to Lyman Memorial. If H-K wins, they will beat Lyman Memorial and play for the state championship.

I know it’s confusing, but after tonight, the semifinals will be set.

Shoreline Conference in Class S tourney

All four Shoreline Conference teams won their opening round games in the Class S state tournament on Monday. Sox of the eight games to be played on Wednesday will contain a SLC team.

Morgan, the top seed and only undefeated in Class S will take on the Warhawks of Bloomfield at 6 p.m. Although Bloomfield (12-8) played in the larger and arguably best volleyball conference in the state, the CCC, Morgan is just too dominant to fall this early in the tournament. The Huskies played one match this year vs. a school outside of Class S, Fitch, and still won 3-2. Morgan will cruise into the quarterfinals.
I believe No. 24 Valley Regional will “upset” No. 8 Capital Prep. I don’t think it is a true upset, because of where the Warriors are coming from. Again, out of the tough SLC, Valley went 10-10 and beating Hale-Ray and Coginchaug in the last two matches of the season. Valley Regional is peaking at the right time and will handle the Trailblazers, although it may not be a sweep. The CSC is full of tech schools who beat up on each other, so this may be an interesting match, but I still believe Valley moves on.
Another possible seed upset comes in the No. 5 Wilcox Tech vs. No. 21 Hale-Ray match. The Noises have one key win this season, a 3-0 victory over Valley Regional, which goes to show that anything can happen in the middle of the SLC. Wilcox is another one of those Tech schools that plays a fairly easy schedule, finishes with a great record, thus receiving a high seed. I have not seen any of them play, but I believe Hale-Ray is a very good team and will prevail.
Haddam-Killingworth is probably the most complete team in Class S. They have three to four very strong attackers and pass the ball very well. Although they lost to East Hampton in the SLC semifinals last week, the Cougars are still very deserving of a top spot in this tournament. I honestly don’t know anything about Griswold, but I do know a lot about H-K and they have the talent and coaching to possibly make a run at the finals.
East Hampton vs. Northwest Catholic is an interesting one. The Bellringers are ranked 7th out of the SLC and the Indians are the 23 seed coming out of the CCC. Both teams play in very tough volleyball conferences. John Post will have East Hampton ready to play, but if they underestimate NW Catholic, this could be an upset.
The bottom of the bracket contains Wolcott Tech vs. Coginchaug. Having seen the Blue Devils play a few times this year, I know they are possibly the most talented team in the Shoreline Conference. They are also the only team in conference to win a set over Morgan (they did it twice). I don’t see Coginchaug having any problem with Wolcott Tech, another “upset,” but not really.
I believe all SLC schools will win their 2nd round matches, which would set up two all SLC quarterfinal games. This would be big for the small school conference and exciting for the Middletown Press.

East Hampton vs. Haddam-Killingworth volleyball preview

East Hampton and Haddam-Killingworth have been two of the best teams in the Shoreline Conference for a few years, just behind Morgan, who no one can seem to beat. Well, they face off tonight for a chance to play for a conference championship.

Twice this year the Cougars and Bellringers met and both times H-K won 3-1.

The game is in Higganum and for the third time this year, I will be there. The Haddam-Killingworth Fieldhouse has the ability to get loud and I expect the student section to make some noise. It will be tough for an East Hampton team, who has been battling injury all year to win.

H-K has two of the best outside hitters in the conference and will be tough to stop. Both teams are well coached and wouldn’t be surprised if this one goes five sets, but I think the Cougars are too strong.

Back on deadline

A couple of weeks ago, before the fall high school sports season began, Jimmy Zanor of the Middletown Press called me and asked if I was ready to write for the paper again. Of course I was and couldn’t wait to get started.
The first assignment he gave me was a season preview for Portland boys soccer. I thought, “no problem, I’ve done these before,” but it wasn’t that easy. I mean, yeah, it was short, but after looking at last season’s record (not a single win) I knew it was going to be tougher than expected.
When I got to the field for practice the coach joked with me saying, “must be a slow news day if you’re coming here.” Yeah, I don’t really know why Jimmy wanted me to do that story, but I did it anyway and it came out well for being my first story in a few months.
After the weekend he asked me to profile the girls team from Portland, which would be a little easier since they had a lot to talk about. Last year they played in the class S state finals, so saying they would like to finish the job this year in about 500 words was easy.
After submitting these stories to Jimmy to edit and seeing them on the website, it felt good to be back. He had made some edits, but I’m always learning and seeing the changes that make my stories sound better make me want to be better.
The first game story I did this season was Coginchaug vs. Haddam-Killingworth volleyball. Last fall I became a big volleyball fan after watching Central Connecticut State and lots of Shoreline Conference contests, so this game would be fun. It was a great match with H-K winning in five sets.
I drove home and wrote my game story in about an hour or so and got it in well before deadline, but the pressure of getting a story done in time was fun…again. It feels good to be back on deadline.

Spring Sports Bombardment

The last couple of weeks at the Middletown Press, for me at least, have been pretty slow. Basketball season ended and we didn’t have all the scores coming in every night, well, that changed tonight.

I put all the spring sports schedules in my Google calender to begin the day and it showed me just how many games we had to cover every day. Then there was a little bit of downtime before the results started to come in. The one call I took was from the Mercy golf coach. The Tigers lost their first match of the season 224-228 to Cheshire.

A lot of the springs sports coaches email in their results which is nice, but when you start to see them all pile up, it’s a bit intimidating. I wrote up some tennis and golf today along with Joe doing the other stuff. The worst thing I may have heard was that today was a slow day, just wait until tomorrow.

I looked at the Shoreline Conference baseball schedule the other day and was hoping I would be able to go to the Haddam-Killingworth vs. Cromwell baseball game for a number of reasons. Cromwell is the reigning Class S state champion and H-K was the Class M runner-up last year. Cromwell has one of the best pitching staffs in the state and H-K has a couple good hurlers as well, not to mention Brian Moskey, my friend Kellie’s brother who I have heard can bring it, but haven’t seen him play yet.

Joe told me that Jimmy Zanor is covering the game, but I could go. Then he almost changed his mind and had me go to the Middletown vs. Vinal Tech baseball game, which I would have no problem covering, but the other game is way more appealing.

Cromwell and H-K softball teams are playing at the same time also at Cromwell High School, so Joe asked me to keep an eye on that game as well. That’s the trade-off I had to make in order to go to the baseball game. I’m sure I will also have a bunch of other games to write about when I get back to the office.

I’m excited for baseball season and hoping I am busy for the rest of the time I am at the Press.