STONINGTON — Stonington High’s boys’ soccer team came within a few minutes of reaching the ECC tournament finals Wednesday night.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead about midway through the second half of their semifinal game against East Lyme, but the Vikings scored late in regulation and late in the first of a possible two golden goal overtime periods to beat the Bears 2-1.
“They were disappointed but when the game ended we just kind of talked about how they gave it their all,” Stonington coach Paul deCastro said. “They’re proud of the way they played and I think they earned a lot of respect. I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d be in the semifinals.”
Stonington (11-5-2) was seeded seventh out eight teams. The Bears knocked off No. 2 Windham 1-0 on Monday.
No. 3 East Lyme (12-1-5) beat No. 6 Montville 1-0 on Monday.
The Vikings gave up only seven goals in 16 regular-season games including a 0-0 overtime tie against Stonington on Sept. 17.
The Bears and Vikings played a scoreless first half Wednesday, but Stonington broke through 19 minutes and 19 seconds into the second half.
Leo Aguirre scored unassisted.
“It was a great individiual effort by Leo,” deCastro said. “He got the ball at the top of the 18 and beat several players. The goalie came flying out and he tucked it in the far corner.
“The first half was pretty even. The second half they put on more and more pressure on us. After we scored I was joking that hopefully we didn’t score too early. You can only take pressure so long before letting up a goal.”
East Lyme was awarded a penalty kick with 3:57 left in regulation.
Griffen Woods took the kick and scored.
“Steven (Zelepos) guessed right. He maybe got a hand on it. He was very close to saving it,” deCastro said. “They had a corner kick. The ball bounced in and when it bounced it hit off one of our player’s hands so I guess they had to make the call.”
deCastro said Woods struck the ball very well and Zelepos dove to his right.
The Bears, shaken a bit by the tying goal, regrouped in overtime.
But the Vikings’ Alex Gaito got the ball on the left flank and crossed it into the box to Nate Delesdernier who scored the winner with 2:05 left in the 10-minute period.
“We probably should haver gotten to the ball in the air but we let it bounce. Steven came off his line like he should and the kid tucked the ball in the far corner,” deCastro said. “Neither goals were his fault. He did a great job.”
Zelepos made four saves on the six East Lyme shots. The Bears managed just two shots.
East Lyme had 10 corners. Stonington did not have any.
Stonington has at least one game left. The Bears will host Weston on Tuesday for a Class M state tournament game at a time to be announced.
The pairings do not officially come out until Friday but deCastro said the schools have been in contact about Tuesday’s game.