Rams Blank East Hampton For Fourth Consecutive Class S Soccer Crown
You don’t win four straight state titles by letting yourself get comfortable. The Old Saybrook Rams were anything but that on a cold, windy day at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford when they beat the East Hampton Bellringers 2-0 on Nov. 20. The win earned Old Saybrook their fourth consecutive boys’ Class S Title.
Slippery field conditions and wind led to a defensive contest where every scoring opportunity loomed large. Taking advantage of those opportunities for Old Saybrook were captains junior Kevin DeCapua and senior Cam DeAngelo, who each netted a goal in the 2-0 victory. DeCapua put the ball past East Hampton goalkeeper Thomas Fenton midway through the first half, giving Old Saybrook a lead they would not relinquish. The goal was assisted by junior Brayden Cody.
With a little more than a minute remaining in the game, 2021 State Final MVP DeAngelo put the finishing touches on the 2022 season with an insurance goal. He was assisted by fellow senior captain Bradley Kulmann.
DeAngelo feels his and DeCapua’s differing styles up front have complimented each other well over the last two seasons, leading to many results like Sunday afternoon.
“We both play two different styles,” said the Old Saybrook captain. “I’m a more direct, run-in-behind type of striker, relying on my speed, scoring ability, and off the ball movement. Kevin is more skillful and takes players on and that duo worked so well for two years. It was great playing next to such a wonderful player.”
Earning State Final MVP honors was Rams goalkeeper London Sweeney. The junior finished with 10 saves overall including multiple crucial stops in the second half as time wound down for East Hampton.
“London Sweeney was brilliant and perfect in net all day,” Rams head coach Steve Waters said of the junior State Final MVP. “It’s admirable because he was athletically talented when he came in but he hadn’t played for a couple years in goal and he trained everyday with [team manager] Peter Rothman. Through the stages of just getting him ready for this tournament he was impressive – he made it known he wanted to be better every day.”
With the wind at their back in the first half, East Hampton had plenty of chances to crack the scoreboard. They totaled 13 shots overall, yet every serious opportunity was turned away by Sweeney.
“I really feel the players didn’t take that first goal for granted, Coach Waters said. “They still had a long way to go in that half, they had to sustain the constant attack from East Hampton against the wind.”
In front of Sweeney, the Old Saybrook defense stood strong. They deployed a five-midfielder formation and stressed getting back on defense. Among this group of midfielders, senior Mike Kapji and sophomore Brendan Cassella played what Coach Waters called “the best games of their careers” in helping to control possession for the Rams.
“I thought the measurement of our resiliency against East Hampton was beyond scoring,” Waters said. “The defenders grouped together, and they did a great job, Mike Kapij, Brendan Cassella held the outside flank midfield, they had a lot of space because it’s a big field, those guys helped those positions incredibly, they gave everything they had.”
Sophomore Brendan Cassella was proud of the effort his team put into thwarting East Hampton’s attack, especially from his midfield position.
“East Hampton is a very good offensive team,” Brendan said. “They scored 3 goals on us earlier in the year. The biggest thing that we switched as a team was our formation…as a midfielder you have to get back and play defense. All of the midfielders did a great job at this and it frustrated East Hampton.”
Senior Mike Kapij added that the Ram defenders strong communication allowed them to overcome the elements and take the game to East Hampton, keeping the Bellringers on their heels.
“The defense did an excellent job on Sunday,” Mike said. “It was definitely our communication and aggression that helped us control possession and keep East Hampton uncomfortable.”
Less than ideal field conditions are nothing new for Old Saybrook. The Rams reached the final after knocking off previously undefeated Oxford in the semifinals on a wintry night in New Britain. The teams finished regulation knotted at
1 goal apiece after Brayden Cody provided the equalizing goal late in the first half. London Sweeney made a pivotal save in penalty kicks, helping the Rams advance 7-5 on PKs.
Waiting for them in the final, Old Saybrook found a familiar opponent in East Hampton. The Bellringers finished the season as the Shoreline Conference Champions and handed Old Saybrook their lone loss of the regular season.
Coach Waters feels his team’s ability to adjust to the weather was key. After their semifinal victory, the Rams knew what was needed to win in uncomfortable conditions.
“[We] adjusted to the conditions…Coach Waters said. “We talk about doing it all year, we work on it. We work on the psychological aspect of being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. The field was very slippery…it was a one-half game for the most part, because the wind was blowing so bad….we accepted the fact that it was going to be uncomfortable.”
Coach Waters recorded his 11th CT State Title and second with Old Saybrook. Waters reached
600 career wins earlier in the tournament after the quarterfinal win against Litchfield.
Four straight state titles speaks to a sustained success that does not happen by accident, especially coming from the five seed needing to play five games over the course of the tournament. It requires buy-in from both the players and coaching staff. Coach Waters feels this is one of the most important factors to winning year after year.
“[The biggest factor is] the rapport and the respect the coaches have for the players and the players have for the coaching staff; you have to have that to make it through the grind of a tournament like this.”
As the Rams celebrate this year’s title they also look to the future. Brendan Cassella will be a junior next season and feels coming together as a team will be vital to continuing the Rams’ winning ways.
“Losing 8 seniors will definitely take a toll,” Brendan said. “But we have a lot of talent coming back next year. The main focus for our off-season is to continue to grow as individual players and continue to bond as a team. A lot of our recent success is because we have always been so close as teammates.”
The Rams are led by Head Coach Steve Waters along with Assistant Coach Peter Sherba and Team Manager Peter Rothman.
The Old Saybrook roster consists of senior captains Jack Forrestt, Bradley Kulmann and Cameron DeAngelo: additional seniors Michael Kapij, Peter Wisialowski, Juan Arciniegas, Brent Ling, and Aidan Gilson. Junior captain Kevin DeCapua along with additional juniors Drew Kulmann, Brayden Cody, Jacob DeAngelo, Lucas Webb, Jacob Speed and London Sweeney. Sophomores Brendan Cassella, Liam Roberts, Felipe Dutra, Jack Morin and Braeden Hagelston. Freshmen Casey DeAngelo, Joshua Roslonek and Ethan Terribile. Tournament managers: Ryan Brodeur, Joao Victor Contin and Nicholas Dutra.