Bittersweet ending to season

Greyhounds fall in title game but earn respect with tournament run

NEW BRITAIN — All season long Naugatuck boys soccer coach Ryan Kinne spoke about competing for a state championship.

The Greyhounds have had sensational seasons over the past 15 years, including winning five straight Naugatuck Valley League titles, but have seen their season come to an abrupt in the first game of the state tournament eight times since winning their last state title in 2002.

On Saturday at Willow Brook Park in New Britain Naugatuck arrived at the final game of the season with the Class LL state championship on the line.

No. 1 Naugatuck squared off with No. 2 Glastonbury, and the Tomahawks prevailed, 1-0, to win their third state title in the last three years.

“We just couldn’t get the final touch to make it happen today,” said Kinne following the game. “There were a couple of plays that didn’t go our way and turned the game upside down, and in the end it cost us a chance at a state title.”

With 17:40 to play, Naugatuck’s (19-2-2) Matt Carroll defended a ball at the post. Glastonbury (17-2-1) forward Dave Wasilefsky came in and made a sliding tackle that sent the ball to a wide-open Sebastian Sanzaro, who put a shot past Naugy’s keeper Aren Seeger for the only goal of the game.

Sam Rego appeared to give Naugatuck the lead 13 minutes into the second half, but the goal was waved off as the referee ruled that Chris Akinduro interfered with Glastonbury keeper Bennett Cole.

“I thought we had plenty of chances, especially in the second half,” Kinne said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. Our guys did a tremendous job keeping our shape on defense, and we battled throughout the game.”

With 12 minutes remaining, Kinne put Seeger on offense to give the Greyhounds another attacker to apply pressure and try to tie the game. They would get a couple chances.

Naugatuck appeared to draw a penalty kick in the 71st minute.

Matt Carroll was taken down in the penalty area, but no call was made. Tommy Martins controlled the loose ball in corner of the box and also was taken down. The penalty was called, but the referee placed the ball a yard outside the box for a direct kick. Vinny Knupp’s kick went over the net.

Knupp fired a final shot in the waning seconds that was on target, but Cole made a diving save, and the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Despite not bringing home the title, the Greyhounds restored the Naugatuck name across the state.

“Without a doubt we earned a lot of respect reaching the state finals,” Kinne said. “We played with a lot of pride and passion and played for the name of Naugatuck. We came together as a team this year and hopefully we get back here again next year.”

The Greyhounds will lose 11 seniors to graduation — Knupp, Seeger, Carroll, Rego, Zachary Alves, Jared McNeil, Christian Jacobi, Yan Silva, Bernardo Arruda, Felipe Pereira and Carlos Gonzaga.

“I’m proud of this team,” Silva said. “We did something nobody in this state thought we could do. We made a statement this year. We played the best we could. Now it’s time to pass it down to the younger guys and let them come up here again.”