Stonington, East Lyme boys' soccer finish in a 2-2 tie
East Lyme — Cooper Pazzaglia fired a goal into the net from 20 yards out Thursday afternoon about midway through the second half, one which his coach, East Lyme High School's Paul Christensen, heard from the sideline.
"Probably his best goal of the year," Christensen said of Pazzaglia, a junior in his first year as a starter for the Vikings. "He rattled the net. You could hear it like a basketball net."
East Lyme had been scoreless to that juncture, two goals down against defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' soccer champion Stonington. But suddenly, the Vikings were sizzling.
East Lyme came back to tie Stonington 2-2, with the game's conclusion taking place in a solid sheet of rain.
Pazzaglia scored again with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining to forge the tie, offsetting two prior goals by Stonington's Ty Fidrych.
The Bears, still unbeaten, are 6-0-1 overall, 2-0-1 in Division I, while East Lyme goes to 3-2-1, 2-0-1. The teams will play again Oct. 21 at Stonington.
"I'm proud of this team for doing that," Christensen said. "They always play to the final whistle. They know that one little break can turn into a goal. ... The first half we were just a half-step off of everything. The second half, that half-step turns into finishing off the goal. It's definitely a confidence builder for us going into next week."
Despite an early shot off the crossbar by Pazzaglia, Stonington took an early 1-0 lead 5:55 into the game on a goal by Fidrych set up by Ethan Allen-Fernandez.
The Bears then doubled the margin right away in the second half when freshman Billy deCastro flicked a ball that got behind East Lyme goalie Owen Brown to a waiting Fidrych.
Nevertheless, Stonington coach Paul deCastro kept coaching, urging his players to get better on each play. The Bears lost nine seniors from last year's team which finished unbeaten in Division I, reaching the semifinals of the Class M state tournament, including All-New England picks Jamison Magowan and RJ Parrilla.
"That's what we try to preach," deCastro said. "We never want to be satisfied. You've got to give East Lyme a lot of credit. East Lyme worked pretty hard. They dug deep. They definitely caused some havoc there in the second half. They really started to believe. They were relentless."
East Lyme's players celebrated in the rain, while Stonington's reacted with disappointment.
"A lot of times we play teams that are going to give us their best shot," deCastro said. "We're disappointed being up 2-0 and tying. At the end of the day, it could be a good learning experience for us. ... Some of these games are close. It's kind of like a puzzle. We obviously lost some keys guys, but we've got some young guys stepping up."
East Lyme also got two goals in the second half from Pazzaglia in a 2-1, come-from-behind win over Division I opponent Norwich Free Academy earlier in the week.
The Vikings replaced Class L all-state forward Alec Kosinski from last year's team. Christensen said if he had to guess who would replace Kosinski's goal-scoring ability from last year, Pazzaglia would have been on the list, along with senior midfielder Kurt Mahlke, who also has a handful of goals this season.
"We had Alec Kosinski up there, so we were inexperienced in terms of varsity experience, players who might have been on the varsity but didn't get the time," Christensen said.
"... Down 2-0 a lot of teams could have folded. That (first goal) definitely fired us up, gave us energy. For us, it's a step in the right direction."
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