Ellington Knights win first round; Tolland Eagles exit early in soccer tourney
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington/Tolland - posted Fri., Nov. 8, 2013
The Ellington High School boys' soccer team started off the Class M tournament with a win over Northwest Regional by a score of 2-1 on Nov. 5. Coach Roy Gurnon said his team held on for the win against a good opponent, but didn't quite play its optimal game.
“We bent, but we didn't break,” Gurnon said. “We scored two nice goals, but we didn't possess the ball very well. We didn't use the space they gave us.”
Ellington made use of the stretch plays – trying to create opportunities for their forwards by chipping the ball forward – often in the game, as it has many times this year. That plan is partly to make the best use of the Knights' player composition, but also as a specific game plan based on the opponent.
“If we feel that we can get in behind their back line, then that's what we'll do,” Gurnon said. “We want to possess the ball, but at the same time, if it's open, it's open.”
Gurnon said his players have grown closer toward the end of the season. That, coupled with the seniors knowing any game could be their last, makes the playoff games special. He said that the team has evolved from a team that surprised itself by doing well, to one that had a mid-season lull, but has played well lately.
Going forward, Gurnon said the Knights will adjust their game plan to the team on the other side of the pitch, but will also pay some attention to set plays in practice. Northwest's lone goal was on a free kick from just outside the box.
“They're set piece was a good shot, but those have been killing us,” Gurnon said. “We just have to possess the ball better. They made it difficult, because they were good at the counter-attack. Every time we gave the ball up, our backs had to work hard. They did that, but it could have been easier.”
As of press time, Ellington (11-5-1) was set to play Lewis Mills (12-0-5) on Nov. 8.
Also on Nov. 5, Tolland dropped a heartbreaker in its first round match vs. Granby Memorial. Tolland responded twice to Granby goals. The first was a header from Jordan Smith that knuckled just between the keeper and the crossbar, the second was a perfectly-placed shot by Zac Parracino on the end of an impressive string of passes by the Eagles with 4:47 left in the game. Tolland appeared to have the momentum. But, with 1:55 to go, Granby's Brent Goldman put the Bears up 3-2.
Tolland coach Jim Leahy said that he thought his team would win that game until that third Granby goal crept in. “When we scored the second one, I thought we were going to win,” he said. “We had come back twice, and thought we had the energy. We had them on their heels a bit after we scored, and I thought we would get one. Granby just worked hard. The difference in this game is a hair's breadth.”
Leahy said his team stayed true to its form. “We lost being who we were tonight,” he said. “The things we do well, we did well. The things we don't do well, we didn't do well. We struggled all year with composure – we gave the ball away a lot. We did not struggle with commitment. These guys worked really hard all year, and they did to the end today.”
For complete soccer tournament brackets, visit www.ciacsports.com.