Friday, May 14, 2021

Sports

Tigers Primed for Another Big Year on the Pitch

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After winning four-consecutive state championships, senior captain Chris Porte and the Hand boys’ soccer squad are hoping for the opportunity to hit the pitch in 2020.

File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

After winning four-consecutive state championships, senior captain Chris Porte and the Hand boys’ soccer squad are hoping for the opportunity to hit the pitch in 2020. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Scott Testori and the Tigers have all the pieces in place to enjoy another stellar year if the fall sports season ends up happening. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Scott Testori and the Tigers have all the pieces in place to enjoy another stellar year if the fall sports season ends up happening. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

The Daniel Hand boys’ soccer team has been so dominant over the last four seasons that you could certainly classify the Tigers as a dynasty. After claiming their fourth-straight state title with a 4-3 overtime victory versus Wilton in last year’s Class L final, the Tigers now have their sights set on putting together another memorable campaign in 2020, provided that fall sports wind up taking place.

The possibility of playing the 2020 fall sports season remains up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 24, but the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) recently put all fall sports activities on hold.

Tigers’ Head Coach Greg Cumpstone and his players are staying optimistic that Hand will get to compete at some point during the school year.

“I really hope so. The information we have is that the plan is to have a season,” said Cumpstone. “I know there is going to be modifications. We’re focused on having a season and being ready. The only issue that I’m worried about is if the season does get pushed to the spring, we have guys on our team that play spring sports and would have to choose between soccer and baseball or whatever sport they play in the spring. It would be tough.”

If the season is played, the CIAC has stated that any playoffs would be contested in a different format than usual, instead of being your typical elimination tournament. The regular season would be tapered back to about a dozen games and primarily feature matchups between local opponents.

“If things are staying good, maybe there would be a State Tournament,” Cumpstone said. “But if there’s a spike, they will probably do something more toned down.”

Coach Cumpstone’s club is coming off of a campaign that saw Hand finish with an overall record of 17-2-4, including a mark of 11-1-4 during the regular season. Along the way, the Tigers posted a record of 6-0-2 in SCC Housatonic Division play to win the division. Hand also earned the No. 1 seed in the SCC Tournament to claim the conference’s regular-season title. The Tigers didn’t win the SCC Tournament, but promptly bounced back by grabbing the brass ring in states.

“We were pretty happy with the season last year,” Cumpstone said. “We classify the competitions into three different categories. We’ve got the regular season, the Conference Tournament, and the State Tournament. The goal every year is to win each of those categories, and we accomplished two out of those three last year.”

Hand won six of its last seven regular-season contests to secure the top seed in the SCC Tournament. The Tigers went on to notch victories over Amity (4-2) and Shelton (1-0) before facing Guilford in the conference final. Although his club wound up taking a 1-0 loss against Guilford, Coach Cumpstone said that the Tigers refused to let that game define their season.

“The Conference Tournament is a really difficult competition to win of late,” said Cumpstone. “We got through a tough game against Amity. Then we lost four starters in our game against Shelton. There weren’t a whole lot of chances, but we were able to pull out the win. Against Guilford, it was more of the same—not a lot of chances, and we had a goal called back for offsides. That was a tough one to lose, but it gave us more motivation going into the State Tournament.”

The Tigers entered the Class L State Tournament as the No. 4 seed and had a first-round bye. In the second round, Hand blanked Rockville by a 4-0 score. The Tigers earned a 3-1 win versus Pomperaug in the quarterfinal round to advance to face Guilford for a rematch in the semis. Coach Cumpstone’s club defeated Guilford by a 2-1 score after winning the decisive penalty-kick session by a 4-3 margin, then went on to beat Wilton in the final to solidify the state title four-peat.

“It was Guilford for us again in the semifinal, and how fitting was that?” said Cumpstone. “We scored a go-ahead goal early on, then they tied it to force overtime. We ended up squeaking it out in penalties to advance to the final. Guilford is such a talented team, and it was only fitting that we play them again in the State Tournament.”

The Tigers are returning several notable players for the 2020 season, including senior captains Scott Testori and Chris Porte. Testori is a striker who scored 24 goals to go with 16 assists in 2019. He made the All-SCC First Team and was named SCC Player of the Year, in addition to earning All-State, All-New England, and All-America accolades.

Porte is slated to play right wing back this year after leading the SCC in scoring among defenders last season. Like Testori, Porte also made All-SCC First Team on behalf of the Tigers.

The other athletes in Hand’s senior class are Jason Wallack, who was an All-SCC First Team selection last year; along with goalkeeper Eli Davies and Roman Barahona, Michael Wehrle, Matthew Luongo, Daven Pelaez, Sean Burke, Ryder McMurray, Adam Laffargue, Evan Birdsey, and Joaquin Fernandez-Duque.

Above all, Coach Cumpstone wants all of his seniors to get a chance to finish out their careers on a high note on the soccer pitch this year.

“I love soccer and I love coaching. I’d be really upset if we weren’t able to have a season for these guys, because they’ve all worked so hard throughout their high school careers,” said Cumpstone. “I totally recognize that safety comes first, though.”


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