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Senior captain Shon Ryan had a fantastic finish to his career as a soccer player at Old Saybrook. The central midfielder garnered All-Shoreline Conference and All-State honors, while helping the Rams’ boys’ soccer team defend its Class S state crown this fall. (Photo courtesy of Shon Ryan )
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Shon Ryan played soccer with a quiet sense of confidence at Old Saybrook High School. However, there was nothing that could contain Shon’s excitement after he helped the Rams’ boys’ soccer squad claim its second-straight state title this fall. Shon and his teammates achieved the repeat by earning a 3-1 double overtime victory versus Holy Cross in the Class S State Tournament championship game.
“We entered the season with some pretty high expectations,” says Shon. “Because we had come off a championship season and lost only seven players and our roster this year had 16 seniors on it, we didn’t think winning a second title would be out of the question as long as we worked hard.”
Shon, a senior captain, had the assist when Colin Schulmeister scored a goal to give Old Saybrook a 1-0 lead over Holy Cross in the state final. The Crusaders tied it up with a goal late in regulation, but the Rams responded by netting a goal in each of the overtime periods to walk off the field with the state title plaque in their grasp for the second year in a row.
“Once they tied us that late in the game, it made us all the more determined. We had worked so hard from early in the season up and into that final game. There was simply no way that we were willing to lose,” Shon says. “We just went crazy when it ended. It felt so great to be a part of a championship team both as a junior and as a senior.”
The Class S state final also marked the last game for Sam Barnes as Old Saybrook’s head coach after a 24-year tenure. Barnes says that Shon was an excellent motivator in his capacity as a captain.
“Shon was able to push his teammates beyond their potential. It was one of the prime reasons why we achieved so much,” says Barnes. “He’s probably one of the most selfless players that I’ve ever coached. Anything that he plans to put his mind to do, he will succeed at because of his strong core values.”
Old Saybrook’s season took a huge upturn following a 1-0 loss to Morgan in its sixth game of the year. The Rams had a respectable record of 3-2-1 at the time, but didn’t lose again the rest of the way after dropping that contest to the Huskies. Old Saybrook and Morgan would go on to share the Shoreline Conference title after playing to a 2-2 tie in the league final.
“We started out by struggling in the preseason. We had kids out sick, we had some injuries, and we went and played in a jamboree and lost every game,” Shon says. “Even after a few games, I was beginning to doubt that we had the same quality in players and determination as we had the year before when we won a championship.”
Once Old Saybrook righted the ship, the team went on a tear that saw it go 14-0-4 in the last 18 games of the campaign. Still, Shon made sure that the Rams never got complacent in the face of the success.
“It’s funny with winning streaks. They can have either a positive or a negative effect,” says Shon. “As a team, we tried to put it aside. We went from practice to game to practice with a mindset that we needed to constantly work hard. We knew that teams could beat us if we didn’t play well. It all came down to constantly putting in an effort.”
Shon was one of three central midfielders who patrolled the pitch for Old Saybrook, joining Gannon Efinger and Carter Gibson at that position. Schulmeister would also rotate in among the group.
“As a center mid, you run the game. You’re the player who picks the ball up from the defense and then tries to set it in motion to the attack,” Shon says. “I think our midfield was so good because all of us were good on the ball. We knew what to do with it once we got it.”
Barnes enjoyed seeing Shon continuously get better throughout his tenure at Old Saybrook. Shon finished off his high school career by earning All-Shoreline Conference First Team accolades and All-State honors this season.
“Shon had very good technical skills, and he was able to use them well. What was nice was watching him mature as a player,” Barnes says. “It’s always an honor for a coach to have kids on their teams like Shon.”
Soccer has been a part of Shon’s life for as long as he can remember. Shon’s older brother Paddy played soccer at Old Saybrook before moving on to compete for Stonehill College. His younger sister Elizabeth is a freshman who plays for the Rams’ girls’ soccer team.
“I was kicking a soccer ball when I must have been around three or four years old,” says Shon.
While he loves soccer, it isn’t the only sport that he plays at Old Saybrook. This winter, Shon will be suiting up for the boys’ basketball squad after spending the previous three seasons running indoor track. In the spring, he will compete for the boys’ tennis team.
Shon is a strong student in the sciences who’s already taken Advanced Placement (AP) biology and is currently taking AP Anatomy at Old Saybrook. While he’s unsure about where he’s going to college, Shon knows that he wants to continue playing soccer at the next level.
Shon is also an ambassador for the REACH (Rush Equipment Assisting Children) Program that’s run by the Connecticut Rush travel soccer team. The focus of the program is to collect used soccer equipment and distribute it to kids who live in low-income areas.
“I’ve done it for a while now,” Shon says. “I’ve always felt that it was great to be helping out others.”
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