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.

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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?