BEACON FALLS — This was the best boys soccer team in Woodland history, and the best chance for the program to win its first state tournament game. Unfortunately for the Hawks, that postseason win will have to wait at least another year.
No. 17 Granby Memorial scored a goal late in each half and put forth a splendid defensive effort to upset No. 1 Woodland, 2-0, on Monday in the Class M second round.
Eric Dietz, who led the state with 36 goals, was held in check all day by the Bears’ (10-4-3) defense.
“This was a good team we played,” Woodland coach Tony Moutinho said. “Their defense was tough. They had two guys on Eric all day and it was tough to penetrate.”
Granby Memorial took a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute when Michael Noyes dribbled into the top of the box and dished left to Brent Goldman, who fired a shot past Woodland goalkeeper Marc Beaulieu and into the right side of the net.
That was all Granby needed, but Woodland (18-1-1) threatened a number of times in the last seven minutes of the first half. Matt Moutinho had two blasts blocked in front of the goal before Lumbardh Pacuku fired just high on a shot from 30 yards out.
Bears goalkeeper David Gottschalk kept the Hawks off the board with 20 seconds remaining when he stopped a Dietz shot with a full-out dive toward the upper 90.
“I don’t even remember what happened,” Gottschalk said. “It’s one of those things that happens and you just look back and say, ‘Wow.’ It feels so great.”
Gottschalk blocked several other shots in the first half and made two key deflections in the second half to preserve the shutout for the Bears, who also benefitted from an own goal with two minutes left.
“We knew this was a quality team and they certainly were a quality team,” Granby Memorial coach Dave Emery said. “But we play in an extremely difficult league (the North Central Connecticut Conference) and we’ve gotten stronger as the year has gone on. We needed to play very well today and that’s what we did.”
Woodland struggled getting many quality looks and Moutinho said earning the first-round bye and not playing since the Naugatuck Valley League final didn’t much help.
“Their defense was tough,” Moutinho said. “I don’t know what they used, but it worked well against us. We were a little flat today. Not playing in a week didn’t help, but that’s no excuse. That’s a good team we played.”
Emery said the team’s midfield play helped the defensive effort.
“We sometimes bring extra people back, but we didn’t do that today because we were controlling the midfield,” Emery said. “They weren’t getting a lot of chances. We did a good job of jamming (Dietz) and not letting him get any shots.”
For Woodland, the best season in school history is over with the program still searching for its first state-tournament victory.
“We had a good season,” Moutinho said. “You can’t take that away from us. We played better than I anticipated. But now that we were this far, I thought we could have gone a little farther, especially at home.”