The Haddam-Killingworth boys’ soccer team went up against Morgan with the Shoreline Conference title on the line in the league’s tournament final at Portland High School on Nov. 4. The two squads played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and a pair of overtime periods, and so they were both crowned co-champions of the conference, marking the Cougars’ first Shoreline tourney title in a decade and their third in program history.
H-K senior Gabriel Mangiafico said there were some mixed emotions that accompanied sharing the title with a rival, but he’s still pleased that the 2017 Cougars will forever be etched in the history books as a conference champion.
“This title means a lot. The seniors and juniors have been playing together since 3rd grade and finally winning a championship with these boys means the world to me,” said Mangiafico. “My freshman year, we lost in the semis of states and, ever since then, winning a trophy with this team has been one of my ultimate goals...All in all, it’s amazing to be a part of such a great team and bring some hardware back to our school. The team played their hearts out. H-K should be proud.”
H-K, which now stands at with a record of 13-2-3, was outshot 21-15 by Morgan. Senior netminder Jack Spooner nabbed eight saves to help the Cougars earn their piece of the Shoreline championship.
“It is a little bittersweet to tie our rivals in the Shoreline final. We are all confident in our penalty kicks and feel we could have won if we were able to take them,” senior Ben McLaughlin said. “It is still a big accomplishment for our team. This is our first Shoreline title in 10 years and third ever in the program. For a team that has been so close since travel soccer, there is no other group I’d rather win with.”
The first half stayed scoreless until the 39th minute, when senior Sam Purdy found the back of the net on an assist from McLaughlin to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. The Huskies evened the score in the second half when Matt Koziy fed Juan Avila for the equalizer in the 67th minute.
The game went to overtime and then a second overtime, but neither side could net the title-clinching goal, and so co-champions were declared. H-K Head Coach Denis Recchia said that his boys were ready to go to penalty kicks if they were permitted.
“I thought it should go to penalty kicks. All of the kids on our team wanted to go to penalty kicks, and they were kind of disappointed when they had co-champions,” he said. “The game was a really hard battle for 110 minutes, and it was the same score we had against them in the regular season. We’ve had a lot of kids in the program for years working hard towards this, and I told them that today was our window to do it, so to win co-champions, I’ll take it.”
The Cougars feature a deep senior class this season, led by captains McLaughlin and Mangiafico, who Coach Recchia said have really helped drive home the importance of cohesion and camaraderie to their teammates.
“We have a strong senior group with seven starters,” said Recchia. “We have a set of experienced guys, and the team is really friendly, where they like each other and get along.”
Previously, in the Shoreline semifinals on Nov. 2, the Cougars edged out Valley Regional by a 1-0 final. Junior Ben Marchetti scored the deciding goal for H-K, which saw Spooner make one save as the Cougars outshot the Warriors by a wide 14-2 margin.
Marchetti, McLaughlin, and Mangiafico were All-Shoreline Conference First Team selections for H-K this season, while junior Tom Williams, Spooner, and senior Kyle Crandall earned Honorable Mention. Coach Recchia added that nearly every game in the conference is a grueling gauntlet, but a welcomed one that leaves his boys battle-tested.
“I think the conference was a little more top-heavy this year, but each game is always a fight, and there are no walkover games,” Recchia said. “The games are always really physical, and the final today was very physical. The games are definitely good stepping stones for us heading to states.”
H-K is seeded seventh for the Class M State Tournament and opens up at home against No. 26 Wolcott in the first round on Monday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.
“Our mindset is that we want to win it,” Coach Recchia said. “We lost 1-0 to Old Saybrook, and then to Coginchaug on a day where we had five kids out with illnesses, and we haven’t dropped a game since then. There are a lot of strong schools in Class M, but we have a good shot at it, and think we can go far.”
The H-K boys’ soccer team stands together after playing to a 1-1 draw with Morgan in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final at Portland High School on Nov. 4. The Cougars and Huskies both earned a share of the Shoreline Conference title by playing to a tie. Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source