Soccer coach ‘frustrated’ at season’s abrupt end
FALLS VILLAGE — In a highly unusual scenario, Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s boys soccer season ended right after practice last Saturday, Nov. 19. That’s when Coaches Hoot Belter and Jim Terrall learned that Litchfield had won its state tournament semifinal, thereby canceling a match with the Cowboys that could have earned the Mountaineers a share of this year’s Berkshire League (BL) championship.“I’m disappointed now, and frustrated,” Belter said about not having the chance for a co-championship. Housatonic’s lone BL title was won in 2005, his rookie year as coach.Two weeks earlier, as the snow had finally melted off the fields of the BL schools, Nonnewaug defeated Housatonic 1-0 to break a first place deadlock between the rivals. At 10-0-6, Nonnewaug stood alone atop the standings after dropping the Mountaineers to 10-1-4. But the Chiefs had played their full schedule, while Housatonic had not. Since the BL determines its champion on a point system, a Housatonic defeat of Litchfield would have earned a co-championship with the three-time defending champs from Woodbury.So at the BL athletic directors’ end-of-the-season meeting, it was unanimously decided that the Housatonic-Litchfield match would be played unless one of the teams made it to the Class S championship match. At the time the odds favored fifth-seeded Housatonic’s chances over those of the 14th-seeded Cowboys.But Bloomfield knocked off Housatonic 3-1 in the second round, and Litchfield won four straight to earn a ticket to this weekend’s title tilt. After spending September and October unbeaten atop the BL, Housatonic had to accept second place for 2011.Nonetheless, this was a remarkable season for coaches Belter and Terrall and the Mountaineers.Forwards Tom Gailes, Matt Matsudaira and Nathaniel O’Neil pressured opposing defenders and goalies throughout the fall. Gailes was the team’s leading goal scorer and Matsudaira was second in assists.Midfielders Myles Clohessy, Jose Rincon, Jacob Horowitz, Liam Lynch and Nick Labbadia keyed the Mountaineers’ short-passing ball-control game. Clohessy led the team in assists, was second as a goal scorer and earned BL All-star honors for his consistently spectacular play. Rincon and Horowitz each received Honorable Mention.Defenders R.J. Thompson, Wilson Terrall, John Hare and Andrew Davis did not merely break up opponents’ attacks by booting the ball out of bounds. They also stole passes, maintained possession and frequently initiated the Housatonic offense. In fact they each scored, and as a group tallied eight goals. Thompson and Terrall were selected with Clohessy as BL All-stars, and Hare received Honorable Mention.On the rare times when the Mountaineer defense was beaten, goalkeepers Willy Yahn and Sebastian Lasseur almost always met the challenges on and off the goal line. They yielded only nine goals during BL play. Yahn earned BL Honorable Mention for his aggressive and acrobatic play, and often contributed at the other end of the field. He scored the game winner in overtime in Housatonic’s 3-2 defeat of Thomaston.The style of play that powered the Mountaineers through 14 matches without a loss carried them into the final minutes of the Nonnewaug match without yielding or scoring against their BL rivals. Although Housatonic controlled most of the play, the home side actually put more pressure on the visitors with its occasional fast-paced attacks.For 70 minutes, the match was scoreless — just as the first match had ended. And just as they did early in the season at Lewis Mills, Housatonic dominated possession without severely challenging the opponent’s goal. In that late September match, Belter and Terrall were often heard shouting, “Shoot! Shoot!” from the sidelines.Late in the match, Davis had passed to Horowitz whose shot hit the crossbar. Minutes later Davis arced a corner kick from the right side that O’Neil headed solidly — off the crossbar. Near misses are often ominous in soccer. Nonnewaug scored with about five minutes to play and secured the 1-0 win and its accompanying BL lead.“I’m disappointed, but not upset,” commented Belter at the time. Then came the snow, and uncertainty.Prior to the kickoff against Bloomfield, Belter and Terrall were optimistic about Housatonic’s state tourney prospects. “We had two good practices on Saturday and Sunday,” noted Belter. Terrall had scouted Bloomfield, and described the War Hawks as “beatable.”But while the visitors had started aggressively, the home side was “tentative” and “flat,” according to the coaches. Skilled and speedy, Bloomfield struck twice late in the first half — first on a strong run down the left side and then on a play that could have gone either way.Leading 1-0, the Hawks swooped down the middle of the field. Yahn raced off the goal line and blocked a Bloomfield shot. But the ball bounded off to his right and Jamal Williams was all alone to head the bouncing ball into the Housatonic net and give the Hawks a 2-0 halftime advantage.Following the break, the Mountaineers mounted an offense. But their half dozen threatening direct kicks sailed just wide, just over the crossbar or were grabbed by the leaping Bloomfield goalie.“We played our game in the second half,” Belter said after the match.In the middle of the second half, after a brief conference, Belter and Terrall pulled Yahn out of the goal to move him up to the front line. “I don’t have any shorts,” he said.“I don’t care,” Belter replied.Yahn borrowed a pair and immediately made his presence felt on offense. He headed the ball to Mark Dignacco, who just missed. Then Clohessy took the ball deep into the right corner and lofted a crossing pass that Yahn headed into the Bloomfield net. But it was too little too late, and Bloomfield held on for the 3-1 victory that eventually became Housatonic’s season finale.