Hand Boys’ Soccer Achieves Another Dream Season
The Hand boys’ soccer squad claimed its fourth-consecutive state title by posting a 4-3 double-overtime victory against Wilton in the Class L state final this past fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Jack Wilderman and the Tigers finished with an overall mark of 17-2-4 in the 2019 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Cole Finke celebrates following Hand’s win versus Wilton in the championship game of the Class L State Tournament. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Chris Porte and Scott Testori run together after Testori scored the first goal in the Class L state final. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
As the calendar turns from 2019 to 2020, the enormity of winning four-straight Class L state championships still hasn’t quite sunk in for Hand boys’ soccer Head Coach Greg Cumpstone.
“Even if you’re the best team on paper, it’s almost impossible to think that a team can win four straight,” Cumpstone said. “This is a team that I’ve only been a part of for two years, but it’s a team which has won 18-straight State Tournament games. That’s amazing.”
Cumpstone won his second state title with Hand with the Tigers defeated Wilton by a 4-3 score in a double overtime classic in the Class L state final. The two teams were in a 1-1 standoff following regulation. Hand scored three times during the overtime periods, netting the winning goal when senior Jack Green converted a cross from junior Scott Testori with just less than two minutes to play in the second OT.
“The quality of play from both squads was so high,” said Cumpstone. “It was a game that affected your blood pressure. It proved to be the ultimate test of wills. After Jack scored, our guys were determined that they weren’t going to concede another goal.”
The victory capped off a stretch where the Tigers earned either a win or a tie in 14 of their last 15 games. The only loss in that stretch was a 1-0 defeat against Guilford in the SCC championship game. Hand finished the season with an overall record of 17-2-4.
From the first practice through the final whistle, Cumpstone knew that he was working with a special group of players this year.
“This team was a pleasure to work with. From that first training session on, they worked really, really hard,” Cumpstone said. “All of that hard work, that willingness to learn what we were coaching them, led to the championship, the silverware, and the trophy.”
Throughout the entire season, Coach Cumpstone’s philosophy of approaching a game never changed.
“We break each half down into three segments. We’re always cagey with an opponent in the first 10 minutes of play. We never really went on attack during that time. We always wanted to create a low-risk situation,” said Cumpstone. “Our goal was to never concede a goal early. Then, once we’ve figured out the other team, we move play up the field and look to score. It was always a matter of building our way into the game.”
The Tigers are graduating seven seniors from this year’s team, but the good news is that Hand will still have a strong nucleus moving forward. Hand had 12 juniors on the squad, along with a few sophomores and some solid freshmen who played JV.
“Our seniors this past year made a big impact. We’ll also have lots of talent returning. But you never overestimate,” Coach Cumpstone said. “When we near the 2020 season, our new seniors will know that it’s still going to take lots of hard work and preparation to continue to be successful. They will need to maintain a big level of consistency and work to obtain a performance level. That’s the only way that you keep winning.”
The Tigers featured talent at every position this season. Sophomore Tim Perez became Hand’s starting goalkeeper midway through the campaign. Junior Eli Davies also played net during the year, including against Law on Senior Night.
When Cumpstone paired up Green and junior Matt Luongo at the defender’s position, the two meshed perfectly. Green and Luongo had previously played together during the offseason.
Cumpstone also teamed up senior Cole Finke and junior Chris Porte on defense. Porte became the highest scoring defender in the SCC.
The Tigers’ midfield was manned by junior Jack Wilderman, fellow junior Sean Burke, and sophomore Lucas Vest.
Testori had a huge year at the striker position for the Tigers. Testori scored 24 goals to go with 16 assists on his way to earning SCC Player of the Year honors, as well as All-State, All-New England, and All-American accolades.
Senior captain Spencer Hartman and junior Jason Wallack also had productive seasons at the forward position for Hand.
It was another storybook season for the Hand boys’ soccer squad in 2019. As Coach Cumpstone looks toward the next campaign, he said the Tigers not only want to strive toward the Class L five-peat, he also wants them to be the supreme team in the SCC.
“We won our division, and we won the state title. All we would have needed to make it perfect was that SCC playoff title,” said Cumpstone. “It’s something to put on our accomplishment list for next year.”