Cadets' season closes with cliffhanger
It was going to take something extraordinary to halt the St. Joseph boys soccer team’s historic run in the state tournament, and Ellington High’s Bailey Bassett did just that in the Class M semifinal match at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury on Nov. 10.
The Knights’ keeper, Bassett made a pair of crowd-rousing saves to keep coach Steve Waizenegger’s Cadets off the scoreboard before Ellington’s Ryan Sherba poked in the lone goal with 8:31 remaining to give No. 8 Ellington a 1-0 victory over No. 29 St. Joseph.
“These kids are going to hurt for a day or two, and they’re going to be kids again,” Waizenegger said. “But they accomplished something at this school that nobody’s done in 26 years.”
Ellington (15-3-2) will play No. 11 Tolland High (14-5-1) for the title on Saturday. It lost to Suffield a year ago in the championship match.
St. Joseph (9-9-2) had defeated three straight higher-seeded opponents and once again played at a high level.
Matthew Reis twice had chances to break the scoreless tie, only to be turned aside by Bassett, who made five saves and posted his third shutout in states.
The Cadets’ Joseph Lucy made five saves, four of the how-did-he-do-that variety.
Including in that group was a stop on James Costanzo, who had leaped over a defender’s leg and unleashed a low liner. Lucy moved to his left to deflect the shot and dove to collect it.
That’s when Sherba slid in to tap in what was ruled a loose ball near the post.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted,” Waizenegger said. “But, they’re very strong. I told them to go win it (the title). They played to their strengths, and we had chances.”
Led by strong play in the middle of the field from Brian McBride, Brandon Rua, Dante Alberti and Christian Barroso, the Cadets slowed the high-powered Knights, a group that had both a height and bulk advantage.
Frank Perez, Brendan Derleth, Jacob Krasznai and Joey Martino were tasked with keeping the area in front of Lucy clear of runners.
Reis, Kirk Beddoe, Anthony Leonardi and Peter Silano helped mark up and earn four corner chances to one for Ellington.
“We played magnificently from our seed,” Waizenegger said. “You play in the FCIAC and you make it to the state semifinals, it says a lot about the character of these kids.
“We played three magnificent games and deserved to be here.
“These players are deserving of everything they’ve accomplished.”
St. Joseph defeated No. 12 Granby Memorial, 2-0, in a Class M state tournament quarterfinal match on Nov. 7.
Anthony Leonardi and Matthew Reis scored second-half goals for St. Joseph and Joseph Lucy had nine saves to knock off Granby (12-6-1).
The Cadets defeated No. 4 Nonnewaug (13-3-1) and No. 13 Weston (10-5-3) by scores of 2-0 in earlier rounds.