Old Saybrook Boys’ Soccer Secures Fifth-Straight Class S State Title
There are athletic teams, and then there’s the Old Saybrook boys’ soccer team. Housing a group of exceptional athletes determined to maintain dominance and overcome any obstacles thrown their way, the Rams did exactly that in 2023, when they secured their fifth consecutive state title.
On Nov. 19 at Trinity Health Stadium, the Rams cemented themselves in the history books in Connecticut high school sports after defeating the Shepaug Valley Spartans 4-1 in the Class S State Championship. With the victory and a fifth consecutive title in hand, Old Saybrook became the second team in Connecticut high school history to win five titles in a row in boys’ soccer. The first team to accomplish this feat was Staples, when they won five-straight championships from 1969-1973.
The Rams were led by senior captain Kevin DeCapua, who scored 31 goals and recorded nine assists this season. DeCapua earned Shoreline Conference Player of the Year, and set the record for most goals scored in a single-season in Old Saybrook school history.
Also largely contributing to the team’s success was senior captain Brayden Cody, who scored 12 goals and had 11 assists. Junior Felipe Dutra added nine goals and eight assists this season for the Rams. while senior captain London Sweeney had a stellar year as goalkeeper.
DeCapua, Cody, and Sweeney all earned First Team All-Conference honors, with Drew Kulmann and Brendan Cassella being named Second Team All-Shoreline. DeCapua and Sweeney were also named to the All-State team.
With the state title victory, Rams Head Coach Steve Waters earned his third title with Old Saybrook, and bumped his total to 12 state championships. He won his previous nine with Farmington, and is believed to be the only soccer coach in Connecticut history to win a state title in each class (Class S, Class M, Class L, and Class LL).
Before the Rams reached the state championship, they enjoyed a 14-0-2 regular season, not tasting a single loss. Despite seeing a ton of success on the field, the team suffered a scoreless 0-0 tie in its season opener against Portland. The draw taught the team to not play down to their opponents, and to always stay positive even in a less-than-ideal result, something that Waters repeatedly emphasized to his players.
“Our goals were to respect the competition, and not to get frustrated with the game process and ourselves,” said Waters.
The Rams then went on to win four-straight games against Valley Regional, Old Lyme, Westbrook, and Canton. They outscored their four opponents 21-2 in that span. Once they faced Suffield in their sixth game of the season, they suffered their second tie against one of the best teams in the Class L division. Waters credited Suffield, and hopes to come out and avenge the draw next fall.
“Suffield was one of the Top ‘L’ teams in the state,” said Waters. “It was a high-end boys’ soccer game, and we needed to come back down 0-1 to secure a 1-1 result. We learned just how hard we needed to compete during the game. Suffield is a quality program, and we plan on traveling to their field for a match next season.”
Upon being handed their second tie of the season, standing at 4-0-2, the Rams went on a dominant 10-game win streak to end the regular season, outscoring their opponents 36-5.
After winning the Shoreline Conference title, the Rams shifted their focus to the state playoffs. Heading into the postseason portion of the campaign, Waters and the Rams focused on each contest individually, adjusting their strategy game-to-game based on the competition in front of them.
“Our expectation entering the state tournament was the same while winning our conference tourney,” said Waters. “One game and team at a time, with a design to win games! We prepared similarly; technical training and tactical design. The entire season we are training to play various styles of teams.”
While they enjoyed some wins at ease in the regular season, the Rams were tested in all three games leading up to the state championship clash. Old Saybrook received a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed, and then defeated Canton by a score of 2-1 in the second round, prior to grabbing a 1-0 win over East Hampton in the quarterfinals.
Waters explained that despite coming out with a victory, Canton presented many challenges, and his athletes were certainly kept on their toes as they tried to navigate and make adjustments throughout the contest.
“Canton was a formable team with excellent players, with a well-coached and nicely fit system of play,” Waters said. “We continually needed to adjust to their level of competitiveness.”
When Old Saybrook grabbed a win over East Hampton to send the team to the semifinals, it was the third time the Rams defeated the Bellringers this season, with another close battle in the playoffs.
“East Hampton posed similar issues,” said Waters. “However, we had played them two other times during the season, and knew it would be a challenging game to beat them three times this year. Their players are very talented, and we had to be able to absorb their skill set.”
In the semifinals on Nov. 15, Old Saybrook met fifth-seeded Holy Cross. The Rams edged out the Crusaders in a 2-1 overtime victory.
“Holy Cross was the most complete team we shared the field with this season,” said Waters. “Both teams played to win, and players on both teams took risks to win. As the game played out, our fitness level helped us prevail over Holy Cross’ talented personnel. Overtime was a strain on both teams, and we needed penalty kicks to win the game.”
Following their nail-biting overtime victory against Holy Cross to send them to the state championship, the Rams defeated Shepaug Valley at ease, 4-1, to lock in the title. Decapua scored a goal and assisted on two others in the win, while also earning game MVP. Dutra also scored two goals, and Lucas Webb added a shot from 25 yards out.
With many key pieces graduating this year, Waters reflected on their impacts on the program, while also having optimism in some of his younger players leading the team next season.
“The departing seniors are difficult to replace,” said Waters. “Kevin, Drew, Lucas, and Brayden were three-year starters with three state titles, and a 57-2-5 record in all competition during their sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. They leave with a ton of experience and leadership. However, players looking to guide next year’s team are Liam Roberts, Brendan Cassella, Jack Morin, Felipe Dutra, and Ethan Teribile.”
The 2023 Old Saybrook boys’ championship soccer team included freshmen Griffin Cadley, Luciano Giardi, Wyatt Parker, Mitchel Kawicki, Sam Dutra, and Trevyn Desmond; sophomores Casey DeAngelo, Terribile, Nicholas Dutra, Joao Victor Contin, and Joshua Roslonek; juniors Cassella, Morin, Roberts, Felipe Dutra, and Carlos Velez Torres; and seniors Kulmann, DeCapua, Cody, Jacob Speed, Webb, Jonathan Bermeo, and Sweeney.