It’s the Knights’ day

By Tim Jensen, TheSportsDept.com

Eric Amundarain scored the only goal Ellington would need with 11:28 to play, lifting the Knights to a 1-0 victory over Tolland in the Class M boys soccer championship Nov. 15 at Middletown High School.

On the winning play, freshman Alex Domingos back kicked the ball to Amundarain, who ran to the left of the cage and fired a shot which sailed past Tolland goalkeeper Kyle Boutot, clanged off the inside of the goal post and settled in the back of the net.

“We’ve done that a lot this year, a lot of balls that come over the top and we just flick it a little bit with a runner coming on,” Amundarain said. “Coach has told us to do that all year, and the ball popped up, came down and I stuck my foot out to grab the ball. I knew I had a guy on me, so I just ripped it on net.”

Ellington head coach Roy Gurnon was thrilled his team came back strong this season after dropping last year’s title game to NCCC rival Suffield.

“I always go back to the bottom line in working with the kids, which is setting what your goal is,” Gurnon said. “This year, it was playing in this game; other times, it’s simply getting better to compete against a team that may be better than us. This is a tenacious group of guys, and they weren’t to be denied.”

The two teams from bordering towns know each other quite well, as Ellington and Tolland were longtime rivals in the North Central Connecticut Conference before the Eagles moved to the Central Connecticut Conference a few years ago.

Under sunny yet cold and windy skies, the teams established the tone and pace of the game right out of the gate. Boutot got things going by making a sliding save off Dominic Scata less than four minutes into the contest, then Tolland had a couple of near misses with a shot off the football crossbar and another that sailed just wide.

Ellington goalkeeper Bailey Bassett did his part, leaping to snare a high shot by Zac Parracino. The Knights came back down the field for a scoring opportunity of their own, but James Costanzo missed just wide right from 25 yards out.

The 8th Knights had two good scoring chances in the first five minutes after intermission. Costanzo’s corner kick was headed toward the goal by Jack Connelly, but Boutot made the save. Kevin Sisco then made a nice turnaround move in front of the Tolland goal, but his shot from 18 yards out missed wide.

For the next 20 minutes, midfield play dominated the action, as neither team had much offensive luck. That changed, however, with Domingos’ header to the charging Amundarain which led to the game-winning goal.

Tolland, which reached the title match as the No. 11 seed, still had a couple of chances, but could not capitalize. Austin Enman fired a shot just over the net, then in the final minute, a flurry of activity in front of Bassett saw one shot hit off the crossbar, then another attempt was cleared away by Connelly to clinch the championship for the Knights.

“Jack, Ian Chandler, Nicholas Topor and Dan McPartland have been lights out the entire season,” Gurnon said of his four standout senior defenders. “It’s been a joy to watch those guys back there.”

Tolland head coach Jim Leahy was pleased with the chemistry his team showed throughout the season.

“This team had a balance of 10 great seniors – some of whom played a lot and some of whom played a little – and some really good young talent,” Leahy said. “I don’t play freshman, but Ryan Greenberg made me play him because he’s good. I couldn’t be more proud. My seniors truly love each other, and they’re so good to the other players and did a great job developing them.”

The victory was Ellington’s third Class M title since 2008 and fifth state championship in school history.  It capped a historic season which saw Gurnon achieve his 300th career head coaching victory and Costanzo, the tournament MVP, become the top goal scorer in Knights history.

Tolland, which won its lone state title in 2009, finished as state runner-up for the first time in school history.

Look for more coverage and photos in the November editions of The Sports Department, next Thursday in The Hartford Courant.

Please see more great photos from the game here: http://thesportsdept.smugmug.com/Other-4

 

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Ellington boys soccer defeated Tolland 1-0 Saturday to capture the Class M state championship

Ellington boys soccer defeated Tolland 1-0 Saturday to capture the Class M state championship

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