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Hall Boys Soccer Opens Tournament Play with Convincing Win

Sam Sandler launches the free kick for Hall in Thursday's win. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall will host a rematch with Farmington in West Hartford in the next round.

Hall’s Lucas Almeida scored four goals in Hall’s 6-1 tournament win. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

At this time of the year, it does not matter what you did during the regular season. Every tournament game you must prove yourself, or face going home.

Thursday night, the Hall boys soccer team did not rest on its 12-0-4 regular season laurels, as they dominated Naugatuck in their opening Class LL state tournament game, 6-1. The Warriors, the No. 2 seed in Class LL, had a bye in the opening round.

The Warriors, and their star striker Lucas Almeida, struck early and struck often against the gritty but overmatched Greyhounds. Just five minutes in, it looked like Almeida had scored the opener, but his low shot hit one post and skidded across the goalmouth, clanked off the far post and dribbled away.

Less than 90 seconds later, it was a no doubter for junior striker as he nodded a great cross from Cyrus Parham. The hosts would have two more great chances to add to their lead – first it was an apparent goal being waived off for offsides, and then it was Sam Sandler sending a cross through the box off a short corner. But Hall could not get on the other end of it and it would run out of bounds.

Hall had to start wondering if they were going to be jinxed as they saw Almeida hit another post after a short side run, then goalie Daniel Anderson made a point blank save on Almeida after a great give and go with Sandler.

Captain Scott Gilden congratulates teammate Aaron Sandler after the win. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“You start to wonder, with all the posts,” said Hall coach Zeke Seguro. But Hall’s luck would change for the better with 90 seconds to go in the half when senior captain Scott Gilden knocked the ball loose from a Naugatuck defender who had fallen in the box. Gilden found Almeida and he beat Anderson with a hard low shot for the 2-0 lead.

The Greyhound sophomore goalie was playing in just his fourth game of the year after coming back from a broken thumb. Anderson was under pressure all night and would make several strong saves to keep his team in it.

Goalie Ty Fairchild plays the ball as teammate Tobias Ruffo offers support. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall dominated possession and attack time in the first half. The few times Naugatuck was able to mount a counterattack, goalie Ty Fairchild was sure-handed in coming off his line to secure long passes into the box.

Holding the two-goal lead, Hall would soon find itself challenged. A tackle in the box resulted in a penalty kick for Naugatuck just 3:19 into the half. Simon Diaz calmly stepped up the ball, got Fairchild to go to his right, and Diaz deposited the shot into the left side of the net to make it a 2-1 game.

Then it was Almeida imposing his will and his skill on the game and putting things away. Less than 40 seconds after the Naugatuck goal, he would convert a loose ball that scooted through the box and found him at the back post. Almeida scored his fourth of the game within t2 minutes when he made a long road, cut across the box, and blasted a right-footed shot into the net to make it a 4-1 game.

But it was not just his scoring that pleased his coach. “He played a great overall game,” said Seguro. “He tried to get his teammates involved early on with through balls.”

One of the game’s strangest plays would come just two minutes later. Hall’s Sandler injured his shoulder on a shot that was deflected out of bounds. On the ensuing corner kick, Gilden’s first effort bent in towards the near post, forcing Anderson to punch it over the touchline. On his second chance, Gilden dropped another perfectly placed ball under the crossbar that beat Anderson and a defender and fell into the back of the net.

Scott Gilden scores on a corner kick. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“He’s our guy for corner kicks on that side,” said Seguro of his senior captain. “It’s just about putting it in a good spot.”

With both sides emptying its benches, Hall would close out the scoring when Sandler, who had returned to the game, ran a great give, and go with John Hunt and finished with the sixth goal of the night for the Warriors.

“I like the way we are playing,” Seguro said after the game. “But the next game is the big one to get to the final four.” And it will be the third time Seguro’s team meets up with Farmington this season.

In the previous two meetings, Hall has won by a 4-0 total score, but Seguro knows, that means nothing now. “I think they are a very good program; we really respect their players. These are two teams in the top 10 all season, and now only one will get to advance.”

That game, for the chance to go to the quarterfinals, will be played Saturday. With the forecast calling for heavy rain in the afternoon, the Warriors are hoping to set the kickoff with the River Hawks for 11 a.m. at Hall.

Hall players Conlan Wilson (No. 14) and Eil Rotter surround Naugatuck’s attacker. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall junior Henry Schlatter looks for options as he moves the ball. Hall vs. Naugatuck boys soccer, Class LL tournament. Nov. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

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