The Coginchaug Boys U19 soccer team, consisting primarily of the high school’s varsity squad, won the bronze medal at this year’s Nutmeg State Games held at Veteran’s Stadium in New Britain last weekend. After losing to Southington 2-1 on Friday evening, and getting knocked out of the gold medal game on Saturday, the Blue Devils faced Southington again on Sunday afternoon.
With the medal on the line, the boys put a solid effort together and commanded the entire match, winning 4-0. Said one parent afterwards, "Sixteen games like that, and they'll have one heck of a season!” in reference to the upcoming Fall campaign.
Coginchaug narrowly missed playing in the gold medal match. They faced Newington on Saturday where the victor would play top seeded Montville. Coginchaug took an early lead when forward Kyle Dupre scored on a breakaway from a perfectly played ball through the middle by Dylan Slomkowski. The teams went into halftime with Coginchaug dominating the game, but holding only the slim 1-0 margin. Midway through the second, Newington was awarded a penalty kick. Outstanding goal keeper Jeff Cummings stopped the attempt, and the ball was cleared from the box. Shockingly, the side referee called the play back, claiming that Cummings committed an offense by stepping off the goal line. Newington was awarded a second kick. This time a different player stepped up and was successful in putting the ball past the now rattled keeper and tied the score. Newington’s second goal was equally controversial. After making the initial save by knocking the ball away from the net, the ball bounced to a Newington attacker who put it softly towards the goal. Junior defenseman Luke Fowler headed the ball away and again the ball was cleared from the goal box. The side referee made another controversial call; stating that the ball crossed the goal line and awarded Newington their second and game deciding goal.
The team didn’t let the debatable loss get them down, but rather seemed to use it as motivation in the 3rd/4th place game on Sunday. With the game barely 5 minutes old, Junior Forward Tyler Kovacs recovered his own miscue and put a shot past the diving goal keeper. As it turned out, that was all Coginchaug would have needed to secure the Bronze but they weren’t done yet.
Soon after the first goal, Senior Team Co-Captain Kyle Dupre broke away from the defense, drawing the keeper out to the left side of the box, and then slipped the ball past him with a perfectly placed shot to the far post. Kovacs added another score before halftime and he completed his hat trick in the second half. Southington pulled their entire team forward late in the match to try to drum up some offense. They finally managed to challenge Cummings with 3 late game attempts, but he turned each one away, some in highlight fashion.
Aside from the goals and goal keeping, it should be noted that a match like one on display Sunday was a solid team effort. Senior Co-Captain Ben Taber led the defense with his heart and hustle. Midfielders Grant Willis, Dylan Slomkowski, Alan Haberern and Michael Lisitano were vital in keeping Southington off the ball by getting the first touch on seemingly every goal kick, punt and 50-50 ball.
The tournament was both physically and mentally demanding on the players and coaches but will undoubtedly prove to be a beneficial learning and team building experience.
By Will Kovacs