Tolland Girls Soccer Captures First State Title in Over 30 Years

By Danny Atkinson

NEW BRITAIN-The senior girls on the Tolland High soccer team have experience playing together since third grade. Since then, the group has dreamed of returning a state championship trophy to the high school. On Sunday, they made that dream a reality.

No. 2 Tolland controlled the Class L championship game on both sides of the ball on the way to a 2-0 victory over No. 16 Farmington in the CIAC Class M state championship game at Veterans Stadium.  IT was the Eagles first state championship since 1985.

“It feels amazing to win this,” senior Lindsey Papa said. “We’ve played together since third grade, and we do everything together. Ending the year like this, there’s nothing better. The fact that the core of our class has been together since sophomore year, and that as seniors we can take ownership of the program and finally say “we did it” and brought a championship to it is special.”

It’s the most amazing thing ever,” senior Eva Riggott said when asked about winning the L title. “We have worked so hard to get here, I can’t even describe it.”

Fittingly, it was the seniors who performed the scoring for Tolland (18-2). Hannah Storozuk scored the first goal, receiving a pinpoint pass from Riggott and kicking the ball over her defender and then Margaret Huelin into the opposite end of the goal. Star Lindsey Papa then secured the win when she maneuvered through the defense and beat Huelin to her left, giving Tolland a 2-0 lead. Riggott again earned an assist on the score.

“Eva passed it to me. We’ve been playing together since in grade three or four, and we just know how each other play, what run I’m gonna make and where to pass it. So I just made the run, dribbled down the sideline, took the shot and it was able to make it through,” Storozuk said about the goal.

“I got the ball from Eva and turned and saw I had space. I felt confident as I was dribbling and cut around her (the defender), and like my shot in the semifinals I cut across with my left foot and got it in,” Papa said. “Our offense played amazing. We’ve connected all season, and going against a young defense we took advantage of that and used our speed to get them.”

Tolland head coach Erin Reed discussed her relationship with the Eagles seniors and their impact on the program.

“I think the senior class is unstoppable. It’s been really nice to watch them grow up. They know my style and I know theirs. I consider them part of my family. I always told them “Leave your legacy”, and I think they did that.”

Tolland’s defense was outstanding in the first half, allowing Farmington (12-5-4) to gain very few good scoring opportunities. It consistently blocked passes and obtained steals and rarely allowed Farmington to get close to the goal, with players not obtaining quality shot attempts when it did.

“Offense wins games, defense wins championships, and I think our defense showed that,” Reed said. “They shut down every attack, they covered each other, they won the ball in the air. They did not allow Farmington to play how it plays, and I think when you can shut down a team’s attack, everything else comes naturally.”

The Eagles offense passed the ball well in the first half and had the Farmington defenders on its heels constantly. It obtained multiple shots on goal and had others go wide of it, with Huelin recording multiple impressive saves. The team’s best scoring chance besides Storozuk’s goal when she made a leaping save on a high shot by Papa with 10:22 to go.

Farmington came out very aggressive in the second half and was able to generate a stronger offensive attack, but Tolland was able to hold it in check before scoring its second goal. Farmington’s best chance to tie the score came six minutes in the half when a shot went in, but was called off due to a hand ball. Goalie Kelsey Leach made an impressive save on a high kick 12:25 in as well. Just when Farmington appeared to maybe be gaining momentum, however, Papa made it disappear with her goal.

“When we got the second goal we were ecstatic,” Reed said. “We said coming into the game that we needed at least two goals to beat this team. Our girls have worked all year on finishing the opportunities they get. We have smart attackers who never give up on the attack. And the tenacity on the goals we scored showed that.”

Following Papa’s goal, Tolland’s defense again tightened up, with defenders frequently swarming upon Farmington players and causing their possessions to be very short. This led to multiple strong scoring opportunities for the Eagles. Their best opportunity came with 7:27 remaining, but Riggott’s open shot was just short of the goal line.

Multiple players discussed how important it was for Tolland to keep their intensity up and maintain their advantage the entire game, something Reed has said her team needed to improve at.  With it being the seniors last game, they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“We were able to keep the intensity up the whole time. I don’t think we gave them a chance really the entire game,” Riggott said.

“We knew this was our last game for all the seniors, so we just wanted to leave it all out on the field and play our hearts out,” Storozuk said.

Glastonbury Boys Soccer Repeat as State Champions

Glastonbury defeated top-seeded Hall 1-0 to win the LL state championship for the second consecutive year. The No. 8 Tomahawks won their fifth championship in six seasons. Alec Hughes scored the winning goal off a pass from Kevin Ramm with just over 16 minutes remaining in the first half, burying the shot in the lower right corner.

“Just an amazing ride for us. I’m at a loss for words,” Glastonbury head coach Mark Landers said. “It wasn’t pretty but you’re going to have to defend against great teams like that at some point.”

“It feels great to win back-to-back titles. We started at 2-2 and everybody counted us out. And even in the tournament, no one took us seriously and here we are as champions.”

The Glastonbury defense stepped up its game in the second half against the aggressive Warriors, with the back line making a number of impressive defensive plays to help deny chances.

“We played a lot of 3-5-2 all year and we switched to four backs this game knowing what [Hall] had,” Landers said. “Andrew Sullivan is a special player and a special leader back there and he really made a difference.”

Sullivan spoke about how special it was to repeat as champions.

“We knew this is where we wanted to be at the end of the year, and for us it was just a motivation to win another one.  It’s what drove us during the season and in the playoffs.”

 

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