Published November 18. 2012 4:00AM
Middletown - Suffield's Mark Beigel began the day with great admiration for Montville.
He ended it with even more ... and his team was victorious, defeating the Indians 3-2 on penalty kicks in a Class M boys' soccer semifinal game Saturday at Middletown High School.
"I admire that Montville group because we did possess (the ball) more," Beigel, the Suffield coach said after his Wildcats survived 100 minutes of scoreless soccer before the penalty kick round. "That ball was on the end line six or seven times in the last 20 minutes and we're watching from the sideline saying, 'How's it not in the net?'
"That speaks volumes to their coach (Colin Delaney), their team philosophy and their work ethic to hold us off."
Still, second-seeded Suffield did hold on and earned the right to defend its state title against No. 1 Bacon Academy next weekend.
"Someone's got to advance," said Delaney, whose No. 3 Indians finished 19-2, setting a school single-season record for wins. "It's not a fun to lose this way, obviously, but these boys have battled. I couldn't be more proud of the boys. To be in the semifinals three years in a row is a testament to their dedication to this program."
But if losing on penalty kicks in the state semifinals wasn't already tough enough, try saying farewell to 12 seniors.
"It's emotional," Delaney said before taking a moment to collect himself. "That's the best class in school history you just saw. In 20 or 30 years of soccer at Montville High School, that's the best group of soccer players you're ever going to see walk through those doors.
"This team in general, state championship or no state championship, was the best group of players we've had together as a team in my tenure. And I think in school history. I'm not knocking the 2010 team. That state championship was great, but collectively this team was probably the best overall team we've had."
The Indians, unfortunately, ran into a Suffield team that was exceptionally fast and talented with quality of depth.
"As a team, collectively, they've got a lot of guys who can move," Delaney said of Suffield. "That's hard to defend. You can't coach speed."
But Montville defended well, despite being outshot 17-8 in regulation and 6-1 in the two overtime periods. Give credit to senior goalie Jake Sorenson, who made 14 saves in a variety of fashions ... from charging out of his net to stop a breakaway, to deflecting point-blank shots, to tipping lofted shots over the top of the net.
He even stopped Suffield's first two penalty shots, too, before Chris Luongo, Colton Grob and Colin McFarlane finally converted for the Wildcats.
"We've always known (Sorenson) was good," Delaney said. "In PKs today - to save the first two - that's not supposed to happen. We really put a lot of trust in him."
Fortunately for Suffield, goalie Ben Woodhouse stopped Montville's first two attempts (Jeff Tryon and Connor Leeman) to keep things even. Matt Staehle and Josh Handler scored for the Indians to keep things even at 2-2, but following McFarlane's goal, the game ended when Zach Foley's final attempt beat Woodhouse but caromed off the left upright.
"I couldn't be more prouder of their accomplishments," Delaney said. "To be 19-2 with the most wins in school history, and our two losses are to the two state finalists, that's not too shabby."