Fall season review

I’ve been writing a lot about the Shoreline Conference and how dominant they are during tournament season, so here is my quick recap of championship Saturday.

Morgan won the girls Class S volleyball championship for the 19th time in school history and first since 2005.

The Huskies thoroughly dominated the Shoreline Conference and state tournament sweeping 18 of 20 matches in the regular season and three of four in the state tournament, including the championship match against Lyman Memorial.

Cromwell won the boys Class S soccer championship for the sixth time and first since 2009.

The Panthers were a strong team all year and only got stronger through the state tournament. A 4-2 (OT) victory over top-seeded Old Saybrook on October 15 was a statement game for Cromwell. They ended up losing the eventually conference championship game to Old Saybrook, but defeated them again when it really mattered, 1-0 in the Class S semifinals. Cromwell dominated the championship game 3-0 over Bolton, finishing a great season and another state title for the Panthers.

Portland and Old Saybrook played to a 0-0 (OT) draw in the Class S girls soccer championship game; named co-state champions.

Portland was the team to beat coming into this season and proved it all year. They didn’t go undefeated or anything like that, but they played their brand of soccer in the tough Shoreline Conference. Old Saybrook finished the regular season in the middle of the pack, but their goal keeper, Mia Neas, one that everyone has been talking about, powered the Rams to a shared state title. The senior did not allow a goal in the state tourney.

I don’t like the fact that co-state champions can be named and I’m sure the players have mixed reactions on this, but why have penalty kicks decide the rest of the tournament games, but no the biggest one of the year? Maybe that’s why, because it’s such an important game. Professional soccer ends championship games with PK’s, I just don’t understand why title games in soccer are allowed to end in a tie.

Time to move indoors, it’s time for hoops!

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SLC in Class S finals

Lets start in Class S girls soccer where two Shoreline Conference teams will play for the state championship.

#5 Portland vs. #11 Old Saybrook

Last year the Highlanders lost to Immaculate 5-0 in the championship game and are back for another shot, this time they are the favorites. Portland, coming into the season, was the team to beat, but the entire conference was much tougher and deeper than originally thought. Nine SLC teams qualified for the tournament, with five of them in the top 11, including both of these teams.

Portland has the senior class and leadership to bring home the title. They did not score as much as they thought they would, but they still have an offense that is able to explode. Marisa DiMare, the Portland keeper, came into this season already holding the school record for shutouts and added 11 more this year, excluding SLC tournament games.

Old Saybrook went 9-5-2 in the regular season with 3-0 and 1-0 losses to Portland. In the state tourney the Rams defeated the top team from the conference, Coginchaug in penalty kicks, 3-1 and then the No. 2 seed St. Bernard 3-0 in PK’s.

Throw the records and seeds out for this one. These teams know each other too well and anything can happen.

Boys Class S

A great run by the Cromwell Panthers has brought them back to the title game for the fourth time since 2006 (champions in 2009). They went 12-3-1 in the regular season, including a 4-2 OT victory over top seeded Old Saybrook at home on October 15. With 10 shutouts, junior Ryan Murphy is tough to score on and the defense doesn’t give many opportunities.

Bolton has a powerful offense that could break the Cromwell defense down. They have scored 61 goals in 19 games (3.21/game) and never had a 1-0 win. They scored at least two goals in all 15 wins this year. I don’t know much about this team, but there results say a lot, it will be a tough match-up for Cromwell.

One common opponent they have is Valley Regional. Bolton beat them 2-1 in the semifinals and Cromwell played them twice, once winning 3-1 early in the season and then again in the SLC tournament, losing 4-3. Cromwell and Bolton are former COC (Charter Oak Conference) foes who will fight for the state championship.

AND VOLLEYBALL

I was hoping for another all-SLC final to back up my previous post, but one team will do.

Morgan has dominated the conference for years and finally beat Coventry to get back to the state championship game for the first time since 2010 and their 19th time overall. If you follow Connecticut volleyball, you know Morgan and coach Joe Grippo. They are undefeated this year and lost only five sets all season (three in SLC play, two to Coginchaug). Coventry was supposed to be the Huskies biggest test of the year and they breezed right through to the finals (25-18, 25-17, 25-19). Morgan may not play the prettiest type of volleyball you have ever seen, but they win and they don’t make mistakes.

Lyman Memorial had to beat two SLC teams to get to the finals (Coginchaug and East Hampton) and they did so handily. Now their biggest test of the year will come in the championship game. The Bulldogs may have played a tougher, larger school schedule and could be ready for Morgan.

SLC aside, both teams played Fitch this year. Morgan beat them 3-2 in their second game of the year and Lyman beat them 3-1 later on in the regular season. If this is any clue to how the title game will go, it should be a classic.

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.