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Championship Saturday: Avon soccer teams to play for state crowns

Soccer graphic CPAVON – In the matter of a few hours, the Avon High boys and girls soccer teams will attempt to bring home Class L state titles on Saturday. 

The Avon girls (16-1-2) will be looking for their sixth state championship and third in four years when they tangle with Immaculate of Danbury in the Class L championship game at 10:30 a.m. at West Haven High School. 

The Avon boys (16-1-3) will be seeking their first state championship since 2000 when they take on No. 13 Branford in the Class L final at 1:30 p.m. at Middletown High. A quick look at both championship games:  

The most thrilling goal of the post-season so far for Avon was Hannah Davey's goal with one second left to   beat Guilford, 3-2 in the quarterfinals. (Photo courtesy Greg Fiori)

The most thrilling goal of the post-season so far for Avon was Hannah Davey’s goal with one second left to beat Guilford, 3-2 in the quarterfinals. (Photo courtesy Greg Fiori)

Class L girls soccer championship
No. 4 Avon (16-1-2) vs. No. 6 Immaculate-Danbury (13-3-4)
Saturday, 10:30 a.m., West Haven High School
Coaches: Jim Murray, Avon; Paul Hunter, Immaculate
Championship history: Avon 5-4, Immaculate 8-1-2
Last title: Avon 2012 (Class L); Immaculate 2012 (Class S)
Most recent appearance: 2012: Avon 1, Masuk 0 in Class L final; 2012: Immaculate 5, Portland 0 in Class S final
Outlook: Suffield and Guilford are the only teams that Avon has given up goals against this season. A solid defensive backfield led by Amanda Holtzman has limited opportunities against the Falcons. Avon showed its skill and poise in the 2-0 semifinal win over Mercy-Middletown, moving the ball quickly and crisply across the field. Avon also showed its poise in a thrilling 3-2 quarterfinal win over Guilford. The Indians erased a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes but Avon’s Hannah Davey scored with one second remaining to lift the Falcons to the win. Michaela Marcus leads the way with 16 goals on the year with Davey chipping in with 14. 

Immaculate has played in 11 Class S championship games. From 2003 through 2012, they played in nine title games, won seven and shared two other titles. This is the second year for the Mustangs in Class L. After dropping a 5-3 decision on penalty kicks in the Southwest Conference quarterfinals, Immaculate hasn’t allowed a goal in three straight victories. They beat Joel Barlow, 1-0; tied Northwest Catholic 0-0 and advanced on penalty kicks, 5-4 and blanked Wethersfield, 2-0 in the semifinals on two goals from Caitlyn Linden. Freshman Kristen Rossler starts in net for the Mustangs. 

Class L boys soccer championship
No. 11 Avon (16-1-3) vs. No. 17 Branford (13-6-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Middletown HIgh
Coaches: Dave Zlatin, Avon; Paul Hunter, Branford
Championship history: Avon 7-7, Branford 0-0
Last title: Avon 2000 (Class M); Branford first appearance
Most recent appearance: 2012: Farmington 5, Avon 0 in Class L final
Outlook: After giving up a goal to Suffield in the final minute of the regular season finale and losing 1-0, Avon coach Dave Zlatin said that the Falcons had to turn the page quickly. It was state tournament time. And they have. Avon has won four straight and has looked sharp in its last two games – a 3-0 win over Guilford in the quarterfinals and a 1-0 win over South Windsor in the semifinals. Their defense, which gave up just four goals in the regular season, is led by Stephen Dorney and goalie Danny Magrini. Offensively, junior forward Riley Strassner is the straw that stirs the drink. Strassner leads the team with 32 goals but he frequently sets up his own teammates for goals. He has four assists in the last three state tournament games including a beautiful cross to Matthew Fuge (16 goals) in the win over South Windsor. Avon’s strength is their skill to move and pass the ball across the field and their tenacity to play defense. 

Branford has shown that they aren’t afraid of anyone. They’ve taken advantage of their opportunities to earn a spot in the final for the first time in school history. The Hornets outlasted Notre Dame-West Haven in the first round, 3-1 and then upset undefeated and No. 1 University High/Prince Tech in Hartford, 3-1. Branford used two quick goals to stun No. 9 East Lyme, 3-1 in the quarterfinals. The Hornets scored three times on just four shots. And in the semifinals, Branford scored the first goal of the postseason against Joel Barlow and it was enough in a 1-0 victory. Max Condon scored on a scramble in front of the net on a head ball. “When they need a man at the right spot, the guy is there. Branford right now has that mojo,” Barlow coach Paul Winstanley told the Danbury News Times.

More on Branford’s run to the title game from the New Haven Register.

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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