East Lyme, Woodstock advance to ECC Div. I boys' soccer final
New London — Paul Rearden, and perhaps more importantly Rearden's players at Woodstock Academy, knew Tuesday night that this would be a soccer game, not a coronation.
As in: Stonington may have been the top seed in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' soccer tournament and even the league's best team to date. But the No. 4 Centaurs had been playing well and had a near miss against the Bears earlier this season.
"We knew we had a chance," Rearden said, minutes after that chance became reality.
Ethan Holcomb's goal with 4:05 remaining in the second sudden death overtime gave Woodstock a 2-1 win and a berth in Thursday's ECC championship game at East Lyme against the Vikings. East Lyme also needed overtime to win its semifinal, 2-1 over Ledyard.
"As the season's gone on, the belief has grown in the boys," Rearden said. "We played a really good side tonight. We knew we had to be patient and keep our shape."
Woodstock (11-5-2) trailed 1-0 at halftime. Alex Quintas Gonzalez's goal early in the second half tied it.
"I thought we were in good shape at halftime, but they outplayed us in the second half. The better team," Stonington coach Paul deCastro said. "We started the season well and got stung by Waterford. We put together a pretty good streak after that. The state tournament starts in six days."
Graham Johnstone scored for the Bears (16-2), the defending ECC champion.
Now East Lyme gets its chance.
"Whenever you get the opportunity to get a home venue, you want to be there to represent," East Lyme coach Paul Christensen said. "We're looking forward to it."
The No. 2 Vikings (14-3-1) advanced on a play they practiced Monday off a corner kick. Kurt Mahlke's goal snapped a 1-1 tie in overtime.
"Joey (Grubb) was taking the corner and I know he usually shanks his shots a little bit," Mahlke said. "So I was ready for it. It was a chaotic game."
Alec Kosinski also scored for the Vikings.
Nick Washington scored for No. 3 Ledyard (12-6), which appeared in the ECC finals last season.
"I thought we played very well in the first half," Christensen said. "We were unlucky a few times. But we had a few chances."
The championship game begins at 4:30 p.m. in East Lyme, meaning another long bus ride and road game for the Centaurs.
"We've had six home games all season," Rearden said. "We're used to playing on the road."
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