Top-seeded Mills boys survive in penalty kicks against East Catholic
BURLINGTON - It's survive and advance time in the fall sports season and the Lewis Mills boys soccer team was able to do exactly that.
The top-seeded Spartans were taken to penalty kicks by visiting East Hartford before prevailing, 1-0 (7-4 PKs) in a Class M state tournament second round matchup Wednesday evening at Nassahegan Field.
Lewis Mills (16-0-1) advances to the quarterfinals where it will meet No. 8 Ellington (13-3-2) on Friday afternoon at Nassahegan.
Mills received a bye in the first round while No. 17 East Catholic (10-6-2) was coming off a penalty-kick victory (7-5) over No. 16 Sheehan on Monday. After a scoreless first half, Mills got the better of the run of play for most of the second half and the two overtime periods but weren't able to put the finishing touches on any of their runs.
"I definitely feel like we were better in second half and overtime and dominated possession but I don't know if we really created a lot of really good scoring chances," Lewis Mills coach Ben Kulas said. "I just think tactically we didn't finish our runs into the box."
With Mills not capitalizing on possession and East Catholic not generating many chances, the game ultimately came down to penalty kicks. The Eagles won their first-round game against Sheehan in penalties (7-5) and now had a chance to take out the top seed on PKs as well.
Jordan Sokol, Alex Pearson and Kyle Baron each scored for Mills while Spartans goalie Ben Lewis made a pair of stops. East Catholic converted its final three kicks in the first round of penalties and after five shooters it was tied, 3-3.
Chris Marcoux started the second session of penalty kicks for Mills and beat East Catholic goalie Blake Mullen with a shot to the left and then Lewis followed with a diving save to his right to give the Spartans the momentum. Jimmy Wilcox scored for Lewis Mills in and then East Catholic's Ben Bosco hit the left post.
"I just tried to stay cool and stay calm, all the pressure is on the shooter, it's not on me," Lewis said. "I know my team has my back and that they would make shots. They just told me save one and I was able to save a couple. I did my job and they did their job."
Connor Angers converted from the spot and after Logan French finally out one home fort the Eagles, Mills' Fred Marinelli stepped up and cooly put his shot home to send Mills to the next round.
"I was just focused on winning and I knew if I scored we were going to the quarters," Marinelli said.
Now the Spartans not only get a shot at making it to the state semis, but they also get a chance for a measure of revenge. Last season, Ellington beat Mills, 1-0, in a second round matchup and went on to play Suffield in the state title game.
"We have been talking about it all year," Kulas said. "I've been bringing it up once a week to remind them. It's how we went out and the missed opportunities we had and how one mistake really cost us a season."
But Friday's game being against Ellington is little more than a coincidence and the revenge factor won't account for much once the game gets underway. The Spartans have already ticked one item off their to-do list, win the Berkshire League title, but they haver had their eyes on a bigger prize all season long.
"It will be nice to play them and try and get some closure for that loss but honestly, it's just another team in our way as we try to get to the final four, that's the bottom line," Kulas said.