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Avon soccer teams battle to thrilling overtime ties with Suffield

Suffield's James Busch feels the pressure from Avon's Ian Jalbert in Friday's non-league game at Fisher Meadow in Avon.

Suffield’s James Busch feels the pressure from Avon’s Ian Jalbert (34) in Friday’s non-league game at Fisher Meadow in Avon.

Avon's Amanda Holtzman (2) and Suffield's Nicole Stryjek battle for control in Friday's NCCC contest in Avon.

Avon’s Amanda Holtzman (2) and Suffield’s Nicole Stryjek battle for control in Friday’s NCCC contest in Avon.

AVON, Oct. 10 – Because I have a camera and I am a reporter, I had one of the best seats in the house Friday afternoon at Fisher Meadows. OK, it wasn’t actually a seat. I was standing.

I was standing on the thin greystone path between the two main fields. To my left, the Avon High girls soccer team was squaring off with rival Suffield in a battle of two undefeated teams. To my right, the Avon High boys soccer team was also playing Suffield, which carried a state record 43-game winning streak into the contest.

Four of the best soccer teams in the NCCC and I was right in the middle of it – going from game-to-game like watching a tennis match.

They were both thrilling games. In the girls game, Suffield scored on a penalty kick with 10 seconds left in the first half to take a one-goal lead at intermission but Avon tied the game with 8:11 remaining when Meghan McKenna tapped a loose ball over the goal line as the Falcons battled to a 2-2 overtime tie.

In the boys game, Avon ended Suffield’s record-tying win streak with a 1-1 overtime tie. Avon took a one goal lead with 23:58 gone in the first half on a goal from Max Gorack. But the three-time defending Class M champions responded immediately, scoring 30 seconds later to tie the game.

Avon goalie Danny Magrini leaps into a crowd of players to make a save in Avon's 1-1 tie with Suffield.

Avon goalie Danny Magrini leaps into a crowd of players to make a save in Avon’s 1-1 tie with Suffield.

The boys contest got the most attention. Reporters from four newspapers and/or websites were in attendance along with WFSB Channel 3. Suffield (8-0-1) tied the state record for consecutive wins at 43 on Monday with a 3-0 win over Granby. The Bears won 43 in a row from 1984-86.

Avon (8-0-2, 8-0 NCCC) took the lead but gave it away quickly. “We haven’t scored a goal against Suffield in three years,” Avon coach David Zlatin said. “We relaxed and it cost us. That’s why Suffield is such a great team. Their guy (Andrew Moskowicz) was open on the back post. It’s only natural to have a little letdown.”

But Avon’s defense stood tall in the second half. The goal was just the second of the year given up by the Falcons. Avon goalie Dan Magrini made several outstanding stops and didn’t hesitate to leap into a crowd to knock the ball away. “I was worried about their outside shooters but our defense did an outstanding job of not letting them get their shots off,” Magrini said.

Defenders Sam Begin, Stephen Dorney and Jack St. Onge played hard and well.

Avon had chances to take the lead. Brendan Brown had a point-blank shot on Suffield goalie Austin Mankouski (8 saves) but Mankouski was able to gobble up the ball. Avon’s leading scorer Riley Strassner (12 goals in last 6 games) had a few hard shots in the second half and overtime but most were a bit wide or too high.

In overtime, Brown cross the ball in front of the net to Matt Fuge (11 goals in last 7 games) but the defense was too solid and Fuge couldn’t get off a shot. In the final minute, Strassner had a nice feed to Jack Keenan but the shot was just wide of the net.

The game was a non-league contest. Each of the 15 teams in the NCCC plays each other once and that determines the league champion. Avon and Suffield (8-0-1, 8-0 NCCC) will face each other in the regular season finale on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Beneski Field at 5 p.m. and that will serve as the NCCC game for both teams.

The Avon and Suffield girls game was just as exciting. Suffield has won four of the last five NCCC championships. Avon has finished second in the league for the last five seasons.

It took a while for Avon to get adjusted to the speed of the game and Suffield. Outside of a scoreless tie with Ellington, the Falcons (8-0-2) have not been challenged much this season.

“It’s been tough because our scheduled hasn’t challenged us,” Avon coach Jim Murray said. “Suffield is always a competitor. We tried to get them to work quicker in practice. But until you get into this type of game, you don’t play as quickly until you have to.”

Suffield (8-0-2, 8-0-1 NCCC) took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Nicole Stryjek with 12:38 left in the first half. But Avon responded quickly, scoring less than a minute later on a goal from sophomore Emma Coran off a nice cross across the penalty area from teammate sophomore Meghan McKenna. The visiting Wildcats took a one-goal lead at halftime, scoring on a penalty kick with 10 seconds left in the half.

Murray made some second half adjustments to slow down the Wildcats. He moved Amanda Holtzman to stopper back on defense and Christina Oberhausen to sweeper to help prevent Suffield from chipping balls into their forwards.

It helped Avon control much of the play in the second half and overtime. But when needed, Lydia Cuddeback was able to make some big saves. With 2:47 left in overtime, she got her hands on a Suffield cross across the penalty area and deflected it out of play. About a minute later, she charged and gobbled up a loose ball before Suffield could get off a shot.

Avon’s regular season finale at Suffield on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Beneski Field at 7 p.m. will be considered a non-league contest.

Avon 1, Suffield 1, 2 OT

At Avon
Suffield (8-0-1)  1  0  0  0 — 1
Avon (8-0-2)      1  0  0  0 – 1
Goals: Max Gorack (A), Andrew Moskowicz (S); Saves: Danny Magrini (A) 4, Austin Mankouski (S) 8; NOTES: The game was a non-league contest. The two teams played a pair of five-minute overtime sessions. 

Avon 2, Suffield 2, 2 OT

At Avon
Suffield (8-0-2)  2  0  0  0  — 2
Avon (8-0-2)      1  1  0  0  — 2
Goals: Emma Coran (A), Meghan McKenna (A), Nicole Stryjek (S), Katie McDonough (S); Saves: Emma Carlone and Lydia Cuddeback (A) combined 10; Jessica Cunningham (S) 7; Assist: McKenna (A)
NOTE: This game counts as a league game.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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