caption ( boys and girls):

The Woodstock Academy boys’ and girls’ soccer teams celebrate their ECC championships. Photo courtesy of Brooke Gelhaus.

The Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys’ soccer team is riding the wave.
“The confidence has got to be sky high,” said Woodstock Academy coach Paul Rearden. “Sometimes, you struggle between belief and confidence. But from being out on the field and looking across, especially when times are hard in big games, and you see who is standing next to you and to be able to see the boys that we have, there is no doubt that they will give every opponent the ultimate battle. We don’t back down.”
The Centaurs proved that last week.
They went in as the fourth seed in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 boys’ soccer tournament.
They exited as the champions of the conference for a first time.
It wasn’t an easy road.
Woodstock Academy knocked off No. 1 Stonington in double overtime, 2-1, Oct. 30 and followed that up with a 1-0 win over No. 2 East Lyme in the championship match on East Lyme’s turf Nov. 1.
It was a nice way to go into the Class L state tournament which started Oct. 30.
The Centaurs, the 13th seed, hosted the No. 20 Prince Tech/University High School cooperative in a match that ended too late for this edition.
“We don’t have a bad draw,” said Woodstock Academy senior Chase Anderson. “I heard from coach that we have a pretty nice road to the finals. I just can’t wait. Our run came up a little short last year, but I think we can bounce back this year.”
The Centaurs lost a second-round match to Masuk, 5-1, last season.
It was their first visit to the second round since 2010. Woodstock Academy has not made a quarterfinal match since 2008.
But the road is not paved with soccer powers this season.
If the Centaurs can get past the opener, fourth-seeded Bassick awaits for a second-round match in Bridgeport Thursday. Masuk, ranked 21st this season, No. 12 Avon or No. 5 seed Platt Tech will await the Centaurs in the quarterfinals if they get that far.
Last week, however, was one the Centaurs will remember for some time.
They had never won an ECC tournament championship.
The only other time Woodstock Academy qualified for the final was in 2015 and Bacon Academy handed the Centaurs a 3-0 loss.
But after a start that saw them lose their first two matches, the ball has bounced much better.
Against Stonington Oct. 30, Woodstock Academy (12-5-2) fell behind when the Bears scored in the first half.
Alejandro Quintas Gonzalez knotted the match early in the second half and senior Ethan Holcomb added the game winner halfway through the second overtime.
“That winner summed up everything about Ethan,” Rearden said.
Holcomb chased down a ball that looked to be “a lost cause,” according to Rearden, deep in the corner.
“He battled for the ball, won it, got his shot off,” Rearden said.
The Stonington keeper looked like he had a bead on it, but the low, hard shot got by him.
“We don’t often break like that, but, in that instance, we got it and it was totally deserved. That second-half performance was to the letter of what we asked them to do,” Rearden said.
The Centaurs were on pins and needles early against the Vikings.
A shot by Finn Power went through keeper Jack Lotter’s hands, but Lotter was able to deflect it just enough to keep it wide of the Woodstock Academy net.
It took the Centaurs a bit to settle in, but they got some opportunities late in the first half and cashed in on one.
Woodstock Academy was awarded a corner kick with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first half. That meant defenders Chase Anderson and Cole Hackett quickly came down field to use their height to the Centaurs’ advantage inside the area.
Sean Rearden sent the corner into the middle, but it was cleared by East Lyme (14-4-1). Centaur’s fullback Nathan Craig took the ball near midfield and quickly sent it to Holcomb.
Anderson had yet to clear the area.
“I was on the line, nobody had picked me up. Ethan looked up, put a little pass through and I took one touch, got through the whole defense and just tapped it in,” Anderson said. “I’m never down there, I’m always back.”
It was only the senior defender’s second goal of the season.
“I think it might take a couple of days for us to recover from that goal by Chase,” Rearden said. “Ethan said it was an assist, I have my doubts.”
That goal, which proved to be the game winner, prompted Anderson to be awarded the Most Outstanding Player plaque.
“Chase puts his body on the line every time he steps out on to the field. If anyone deserves a little extra glory, it’s him,” Rearden said.
Anderson wasn’t the only defensive player who deserved kudos for his effort in the match.
Cole Hackett was dominant in the back.
“We all call him ‘Mr. Perfect’,” Anderson said. “He’s a great athlete in every sport that we play.”
Hackett also got involved in the offense against East Lyme.
The Centaurs were awarded a free kick near midfield just over halfway through the second half.
Hackett’s big foot found Quintas Gonzalez inside the area and the sophomore beat two defenders and the keeper to add the insurance goal with 17:55 left.
“It was a relief,” Rearden said. “It was similar to his goal (against Stonington) although not as spectacular. He was tired, he was waiting to come off, but he squeezed every little bit of energy out for that.”
The Centaurs surprised themselves and others when they captured a share of the ECC Division II regular season title along with Bacon Academy and Ledyard.
This one was something they could claim for themselves.
“Last year, we lost (the ECC Division 2 championship) in basketball. This feels so good. It’s my first (championship) ever,” Anderson said. “We shared the Division II title but it’s nothing like this. To come out on top against all these other teams is just an amazing feeling.”
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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