Stonington wraps up first unbeaten regular season since 1994
Stonington — Paul deCastro played the setup guy.
The Stonington High School boys' soccer team was huddled around deCastro, its coach, and deCastro was extolling the dedication of goalie Adam Gibbs, who stuck with the team until finally getting his chance to start during his senior season. It was appearing like a Hallmark moment ... until an unsuspecting Gibbs had the water bucket splashed over his head, his teammates laughing into the night.
"We all love the sport ... it's playing with the people you love," Stonington's Max Wojtas said.
"It's that fine line between having fun and coming to practice and figuring out how to get better," deCastro said. "But winning is fun, too."
Stonington, with a 4-0 defeat of Montville in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II game on Monday night, finished the season undefeated at 15-0-1, its first unbeaten regular season since going 14-0-2 in 1994.
The Bears are the No. 2 seed in the upcoming ECC tournament and host either Griswold or Plainfield in the quarterfinals Friday. Stonington was the underdog last year when it won four games to take the ECC tournament title, but has taken on a different role this season amongst its ECC brethren.
"I think it's just a joint, group effort," said Wojtas, who scored twice. "Everyone keeps playing, everyone keeps working hard, everyone caring about this team. We put in a group effort."
Wojtas, for instance, was a role player last year and played indoor and outdoor soccer, as well as competing in indoor and outdoor track to get himself ready to contribute this season. He even took a trip with his dad in May to see his favorite Premier League team, Manchester City, play in England.
Against Montville, Harrison Hoops scored just 3 minutes, 5 seconds into the game, chipping in a ball from the left side on an assist from Ty Fidrych. Wojtas made it 2-0 about midway through the half on a tap in assisted by Jamison Magowan.
Shane Smith scored the third goal off a throw-in from R.J. Parrilla, drilling the ball about 30 yards into the top of the net, and Wojtas finished things off with 5:29 to play on another assist by Magowan. Gibbs finished with five saves for the shutout.
Montville finished the season 5-10-1 overall, 2-7-1 in ECC Division II. The Indians needed to beat Stonington to qualify for the ECC and state tournaments, but have played the latter half of the season missing five injured players that they started the season with.
"We lost to Coginchaug 2-1 last week. We beat them early (3-1), but this is a very different team we put on the field," Montville coach Colin Delaney said.
"(Stonington) returned pretty much their entire squad. It's a good position to be in," Delaney said. "They're a quality team ... a combination of chemistry and they have a bunch of guys with quality skills that play ball a lot. They're the best team in the league this year. There's no secret about it. ... This year wasn't that year for us."
Stonington's only blemish this season came in a 1-1 tie against Waterford on Oct. 10. The Bears finished 9-0-1 in the division, wrapping up the title with last week's 3-2 victory over Bacon Academy. It was Stonington's first division title since 2002.
Monday, Stonington celebrated its 10 seniors on Senior Night.
"It's a process," said deCastro of his team's success. "Two years ago we made a run in the ECC tournament. Last year we actually won it and we return a lot of key guys. But am I surprised by the record? Of course I am."
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