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01/12/2022 11:00 PM

Slisz Found His Home in Goal

Senior Ryan Slisz capped his Old Saybrook soccer career on a high note by stepping into the net and helping the Rams enjoy an undefeated season that culminated with a state title. Photo courtesy of Ryan Slisz

Prior to the recent fall season, Ryan Slisz was exclusively a field player for the Old Saybrook boys’ soccer team, playing most of his time with the JV squad. However, going into the 2021 campaign, the Rams were trying to figure out how to fill the voids left by last year’s graduating class, including former goalkeeper Matt Rothman.

Even though Ryan had played defense throughout high school—and midfield and striker when he was younger—he had spent some time in goal during his early days of soccer and also with Soccer Unlimited Football Club while he was in middle school. With that experience, Ryan stepped into the role as Old Saybrook’s starting goalie and also became a full-time varsity player for the first time in his high school career as a senior.

“It was a position that needed to be filled, and I considered myself to be a good fit, because I had the most past experience,” says Ryan. “I was fine switching to goal. I was just happy to be on the field after COVID didn’t let us experience a full season last year [in 2020].”

Ryan and the Rams not only experienced a full season—they finished the fall campaign with an undefeated record on their way to winning their third-straight Class S state title. Old Saybrook, which also claimed a share of the Shoreline Conference crown, finished the season with an overall record of 19-0-3.

While he says winning the state championship game was “unbelievable,” when Ryan thinks about the biggest moment of the season, he remembers the “very intense” semifinal game against Somers in the pouring rain. Old Saybrook was down 2-0 with 10 minutes left to play before getting its first goal.

As the final seconds ticked down, Somers cleared the ball, and Ryan heard the Spartans’ fan section cheering, thinking the game was over with some players even starting to walk off the field. The ball came to Ryan, who kicked it back to midfield, where Brayden Cody headed it to Kevin DeCapua, who passed it to Cam DeAngelo. DeAngelo brought the ball into the box and was tripped and awarded a penalty kick with two seconds to go. DeAngelo converted the PK, sending the game into overtime, where Old Saybrook scored the game-winner to send Head Coach Steve Waters’s squad to the state final.

“There was nothing better than Ryan having to show his field player abilities by clearing the ball just outside the top of the right of the penalty, over the midfield strip,” Coach Waters says. “Basically, we went end to end in 10 seconds off of Ryan’s driving clear with 12 seconds left to tie the score 3-3 and bring us into OT. Ryan played great in the finals to beat Canton.”

While Waters was impressed with that performance, he notes that Ryan’s “save of the year” came against Norwich Free Academy, when the senior keeper made a diving stop to the upper-right corner to come down with the ball.

For Ryan, winning the state championship was a “really nice way to finish off my soccer career.” Ryan has been playing soccer for as long as he can remember, starting with park and rec before moving on to travel and club soccer, in addition to competing for his middle school team. One of the most special aspects of the 2021 season for Ryan was that he got to play with many of the same teammates that he had as a youngster as part of an Old Saybrook team that featured a “good dynamic.”

“We’re all really good friends, and it made the season that much more fun,” says Ryan. “I’m going to miss my teammates.”

Along with the familiar faces of his teammates, Ryan also enjoyed working alongside Assistant Coach Peter Rothman, who was one of his coaches when he first started playing soccer. Ryan also liked knowing that his youth coaches, Joe Scalzo and Tyler Potts, were in the stands and cheering on the Rams as their sons also played.

“It was really nice to have him there, bringing back old memories and someone I knew I could really trust to make sure I got through season well,” Ryan says. “It was nice to have those guys not only watch their own kids, but the team and their boys from club go through and graduate high school.”

Although he’s finished his days with Old Saybrook soccer, Ryan will be donning another Rams’ jersey with the boys’ lacrosse team in the spring. Ryan has been playing lacrosse since he was about 10 years old.

Ryan earned a spot on the Rams’ varsity roster as a freshman and has been contributing to the team ever since. In his senior year, Ryan is looking to help Old Saybrook improve on past seasons as he takes on a bigger leadership role as one of the Rams’ captains.

“Our team hasn’t been very good, but it’s still fun because of the people I was with. The past seniors have been really fun,” says Ryan. “This season, we’re looking to do better than last season. We’ve been talking with our coaches, and we have some talented players coming up, so we’re hoping for a better record this year.”

Ryan is also working on plans for after graduation. He is considering taking some of his core classes at Middlesex Community College, although he is also looking into tech schools in Florida to learn how to work on boat engines. Living 100 feet from his family boat, Ryan has always loved the water.

Ryan feels thankful for the support of his parents, Kevin and Tina, who are always watching his games and transporting him to his activities. Ryan’s father has helped by researching lacrosse equipment, as well. Ryan remembers that his mom initially felt nervous about him taking on the goalkeeper position, but the senior put those concerns to rest with his excellent efforts in the net.

“She liked to see me play striker and score goals, but I told her it was a position we really needed to be filled, and it turned out pretty well,” Ryan says. “I’d never even been a full-time varsity player in high school, so it was very exciting. To just be part of the championship game and part of the undefeated season was just an amazing experience.”