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.

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.

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.

SCC volleyball preview: Lyman Hall at Mercy

Here’s the deal today. I will be going to Mercy at 5:30 for their first SCC volleyball tournament match vs. Lyman Hall. I love volleyball and it has grown on me more and more every year, but I know nothing about the Mercy team or the Southern Connecticut Conference as a whole. I have done quite a few Shoreline Conference matches, but tonight will be new for me.

Mercy (16-2) have only lost to Cheshire (20-0), the top team in the conference, both matches ended 3-0. Lyman Hall (11-7) won’t be an easy out for the Tigers tonight however. They took Amity (16-4) five sets before losing 2-3 on October 15.

This is the first meeting of the year for the two teams and I predict Mercy wins 3-0. The Tigers played only two five set matches this year and that was opening night vs. Sheehan and a week later against Foran, winning both. Mercy hasn’t lost since October 4. Mercy will cruise there way to the next round.

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.