Bears remain unbeaten in boys' soccer despite the jump to ECC's Division I
Stonington — Stonington, the two-time defending Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament champion and author of last season's 19-0-2 record in boys' soccer, was scheduled to play in Division III in the league's new alignment based on enrollment.
"I talked to Mr. Morrone (Bryan, Stonington's athletic director) and told him we should be in Division I or Division II. He came back to me and said we're in Division I," Stonington coach Paul deCastro said.
"We wanted to play Bacon, Waterford, Fitch, East Lyme ... the teams that we play can help us get ready to play in the state tournament. I think we deserve to be at Division I. We have good players."
The Bears, despite their new surroundings and the fact they lost 10 seniors from last year's team, remained unbeaten Wednesday night with a 3-0 victory over Fitch in a Division I matchup. Stonington has also beaten Division I opponents East Lyme (2-1) and Norwich Free Academy (2-0).
It was a physical showdown for a half, with Stonington scoring only on a penalty kick by Jamison Magowan in the first half for a 1-0 lead before settling in later on.
Magowan scored on a rebound after his initial penalty kick was saved by Fitch goalie Ramiro Zavala and Magowan added a second-half tip-in on an assist from Graham Johnstone. RJ Parrilla also scored for the Bears.
"I credit Paul for wanting to move up," Fitch coach Jay Wolfradt said of deCastro. "I appreciate what he's trying to do with his program. ... I really thought we battled. We had a tremendous save on the PK, but they're where they're supposed to be (for the rebound). They're very skilled. We tried to play more defensively; we had to stop the bleeding somehow."
DeCastro thought his team was a little bit flustered at halftime with the game's chippiness.
"There definitely was a lot of passion in both teams," deCastro said. "We talked about, 'We want to stick to keeping the ball on the ground and playing soccer.' ... That's a big second goal. That took the pressure off."
Almost 10 minutes went by in the second half with Stonington still clinging to a 1-0 lead and it looked as if would remain that way when Fitch got a defensive clear on a shot by Max Wojtas. This time it was Parrilla who was where he was supposed to be, collecting the rebound and quickly unleashing a shot low and to the right side of the goal, beating a diving Zavala.
It was about two and a half minutes later that Johnstone hit a through ball that Magowan tapped in with 27:40 to play for the 3-0 lead.
Zavala made seven saves and Stonington goalie Peter Fernholz, in his first season as starter, had four.
"The past couple years of success has put a target on our back," said Parrilla, a senior three-sport standout at Stonington. "Teams are going to give us their best and we give our best. Just getting settled in, getting back to playing technical ... we had to balance playing physically with technically. We've been against that situation a lot. We had to shake it off and not let it get to us."
DeCastro, who said he's been longtime friends with Division I coaches such as Paul Christensen (East Lyme), Robert Briones (NFA) and Wolfradt — but also enjoys competing against them — called his players "naive to the process" of how they're placed in a division. They will compete wherever they're placed, he said.
"We have some players that are gaining experience," deCastro said. "They're getting better every day. They're having a lot of fun and improving. They're like a bunch of little kids, but it's important for them to have fun.
"We don't have any easy games."
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