Tigers Complete Undefeated Season with Divisional Title
The Hand boys’ soccer squad finished off an undefeated season by claiming a 3-1 win against Guilford in the championship game of the SCC Division B Tournament on Nov. 12. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
In a season riddled with questions and concerns for player safety due to COVID-19, one constant among the hodgepodge was the performance of the Daniel Hand boys’ soccer team. The Tigers were once again one of the most dominant squads in state and wound up finishing the season with an unblemished record to go with an SCC divisional title.
The Tigers capped off their perfect year by earning a 3-1 win versus Guilford in the SCC Division B Tournament final at the Surf Club on Nov. 12. Head Coach Greg Cumpstone’s club posted a record of 11-0 after withstanding a fierce challenge from its crosstown rival.
“This was the third time that we played Guilford this year, and it was easily the toughest yet,” said Cumpstone. “It’s tough playing any team three times a year. Each time we played Guilford, they attacked us with a new formation. We figured they would come out and play a 3-5-2 against us in the title game, and that really worked to their advantage. They were really dangerous on the counterattack.”
Senior captain Scott Testori put Hand on the board when he scored on a penalty kick during the first half. Shortly after Testori’s score, Guilford tied the game on a goal by Niall O’Brien to make it 1-1 at halftime.
“We told the boys that the key to victory this game was going to be controlling possession, and I felt like we did a good job of that for most of the first half,” Coach Cumpstone said. “But there was a period at the end of the half were we kind of lost focus. That’s when Guilford equalized.”
Cumpstone said that his players were frustrated with their performance in the first half. However, they stayed focused on the ultimate goal and regrouped in order to perform well during the second stanza.
“I told the guys in the locker room, ‘This is a cup final. You couldn’t have expected it to go any other way.’” said Cumpstone. “We beat them 6-1 in our second meeting of the season, but Guilford is a very talented team, and we knew this was going to be close,” said Cumpstone. “My main message to the boys was to keep control of the game and keep hammering away with shots on target.”
Hand took 12 shots on goal in the game, but Guilford goalie Justin Hess made several saves to keep his team in it. However, in the second half, Testori netted the go-ahead goal when he put home a chance created by fellow senior captain Chris Porte to give the Tigers a 2-1 advantage. Testori had a chance for a hat trick—which would have been his sixth game in a row with one—but Hess stopped Testori’s second penalty kick attempt of the night to keep Guilford within a goal.
“Hess had a fantastic game for Guilford. He stopped a lot of great opportunities that we created, and he really kept them in the game,” Coach Cumpstone said. “Our biggest worry in this game was that we didn’t know if it was going to be one of those games where we create a bunch of chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. We just needed to calm down, and it all worked out for us.”
Senior Jason Wallack ensured that everything would work out just fine for the Tigers when he scored an insurance goal late in the game to give them a 3-1 cushion. Senior goalie Eli Davies made six saves in net for Hand.
Testori was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He finished his senior season with 28 goals and nine assists. Porte had 15 assists on the year, and Wallack contributed 13 assists. The senior duo also combined to score 19 goals.
“With Scott, the first thing that comes to mind for people is the goals. But the thing that makes Scott one of the best players is his all-around ability to play the game,” Coach Cumpstone said of Testori. “He’s a true playmaker. His holdup play is fantastic. Defensively, he presses very well, and he wins aerial duels. He really does it all.”
Even though Hand is set to graduate 13 seniors from this year’s team, Cumpstone feels confident that the Tigers are going to see continued success in 2021.
“The expectations for next year are the same as they are every year. We want to win every game that we have in front of us,” said Cumpstone. “We feel like we have enough players coming up that we are going to remain competitive. When players get to Daniel Hand, the expectations are very high. Our expectation is never to rebuild.”
Hand’s roster includes senior captains Scott Testori and Chris Porte; fellow seniors Eli Davies, Roman Barahona, Michael Wehrle, Evan Birdsey, Matthew Luongo, Daven Pelaez, Sean Burke, Ryder McMurray, Adam Laffargue, Jason Wallack, and Jack Wildermann; along with juniors Gavin Jorens, Rhett Newton, Jacob Kraft, Joseph Mazzarella, Aiden MacKay, Lucas Vest, Edward Wheeler, and Timothy Perez.