Cole Hackett signs NLI with Boston University
Woodstock Academy boys soccer coach Paul Rearden just pointed to his head when asked why senior soccer player Cole Hackett drew the attention of Boston University.
“He is just a natural soccer player, and he has the brains to back it up,” Rearden said. “He’s got it all. The next step in his career is a big test, but through the years, every test that has been put in front of him on the field he has risen to and he’s ready for the next one.”
On Wednesday, Hackett signed his National Letter of Intent to play Division I men’s soccer for the Terriers.
“Ever since I was in seventh grade I wanted to play college soccer. To be given the opportunity to play at Boston University is really special,” Hackett said.
All through the process, Hackett had one question for Rearden.
Was he good enough to play for a club like Boston University?
“I kept telling him, ‘Cole, you don’t know how good you can be. That’s the exciting thing for him. I’ve played with some quality players, coached some quality players and he’s as good as any of them. That’s a compliment,” Rearden said.
Hackett said while his dream was to play college soccer, he also knew that it had to fit him academically and the future economics major feels BU fits the bill.
He also will not be going alone.
Jacopo Ambrosetti, who played for the Centaurs in 2017 as a transfer student from Italy and finished with 17 goals, went home to complete his final year of high school.
He will return stateside as a member of the Terriers in the fall.
“It’s going to be awesome. We’re going to be rooming together, too, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Hackett said. “One of my biggest concerns was rooming with a random person so knowing that it will be Jacopo is cool.”
Hackett said Boston University also had several other advantages for him. It is Boston, in the middle of the action of a lively city, but it’s also close enough so that his parents, Brenda and John, can come and see his games.
“Far enough, but not too far,” Hackett said with a chuckle.
Hackett also thanked Rearden for his influence.
Rearden, a native of Liverpool, England knows Boston University associate head coach Scott Black who also coaches in Liverpool.
“Coach Paul has a really good connection with him and was able to get Jacopo looked at by him which got me looked at,” Hackett said.
Hackett finished with two goals and three assists for the Centaurs this season.
“He’s a special lad. This is a just reward for all the work he has put in since the day he walked in at Woodstock Academy. It’s been a privilege to work with a great role model for every kid who comes to high school, does athletics, and wants to pursue his dreams,” Rearden said.
Hackett won’t be gone from Woodstock Academy forever.
In fact, he will return shortly after graduation to participate in the Boston University preseason camp which is held at Woodstock Academy.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Hackett said. “I remember last year coming to their preseason here and it will be really exciting to come back to Woodstock to play. Hopefully, all my friends come to preseason to watch me.”
Boys season ends in Bridgeport
It was a long ride home from Bridgeport Thursday.
It gave coach Paul Rearden and his Woodstock Academy boys soccer team a lot of time to think about the season that was.
“At the beginning of the season, if someone would have said, you will lose a second-round game in the states, but you will win the (Eastern Connecticut Conference championship) and a share of the division title. Will you take it? I would have bit my arm off for that,” Rearden said.
Fortunately, all of Rearden’s limbs are still in the correct place.
Still, it was a long ride to make to come home empty-handed.
The 13th –seeded Centaurs fell to No. 4 Bassick in a Class L 2nd round contest, 2-1, in Bridgeport.
“I’m so proud of what the boys have achieved. Going into season, people were asking about expectations and my big question was; with the talent we had coming back and the younger boys coming up, about how were they going to handle the physicality of varsity soccer?” Rearden said.
To make matters worse, the Centaurs lost their first two matches to Stonington and Amherst, Mass.
The Centaurs ended their season with a 13-6-2 record.
“To be sitting here at the end with the ECC title, the performances and the wins, it would be unreasonable to say the season was a disappointment. I think we exceeded what most people thought we could achieve,” Rearden said.
It was not the loss in the state tournament match to Bassick, but instead the manner in which the Centaurs lost that was hard to stomach.
The Centaurs had their chances to win.
Rearden thought his team could have easily scored four goals in the contest.
“Credit to us, we battled all the way through. The circumstances were not all of our making, and it left a sour taste for the season as good as it was. When you have been beaten by a team that outplays you, you can turn around and say they were better than us. Unfortunately, some games are not meant to be,” Rearden said.
Woodstock Academy did strike first.
Early in the contest, Cole Hackett sent a through ball to Ethan Holcomb.
The senior forward challenged a defender and the Bassick keeper and beat them both with a header to give the Centaurs the lead within the first three minutes of the contest.
Woodstock Academy did not find the net again.
Bassick tied the game just before the half and, with six minutes left in the game, put in the winner.
It was a disappointment for the Centaurs who thought they had a good chance to make the Class L quarterfinals, something Woodstock Academy has not accomplished in boys soccer since 2008.
The state tournament started well for the Centaurs despite the weather.
The weather on Tuesday was arguably one of the 10 worst days of the year as the Class L match between the Centaurs and No. 20 Prince Tech/University High School was played in a driving chilly rain with wind and fog to boot.
Rearden, a native of Liverpool, England, was loving it.
“This is the perfect weather for soccer. The ball moved quickly (on the turf at the Bentley Athletic Complex) like we like it to do and there was no danger of overheating. This is the weather I used to love to play in,” Rearden said.
But he was not playing.
So, Rearden did the smart thing and retreated under a pop-up tent.
“The boys were doing their best to empty it on my head,” Rearden said with a chuckle. “I survived.”
So did the Centaurs.
It was the Tigers who got the long ride home, made more miserable in their wet clothing, after a 4-0 loss to the Centaurs.
Although it took a little bit for Woodstock Academy to get going.
“We had to warm up so it was difficult in the first 15 minutes,” sophomore Alejandro Quintas Gonzalez said.
Rearden was not all that happy about the first 20 minutes against the Tigers (7-7-3).
“I told them you can’t come out and walk through a game and for the first 20 minutes, we were poor. We were sloppy with the ball, movement wasn’t there, our shape wasn’t there,” Rearden said.
But things did get better for the Eastern Connecticut Conference champs.
Reid Butler, getting the start in place of the injured Aidan Morin, took a pass from Quintas Gonzalez, and scored 21 minutes, 18 seconds into the match.
“He’s got the sweetest left foot you will see and I think that settled us down,” Rearden said.
Just 3:04 before halftime, Quintas Gonzalez made a nice move around Argelys Jiminian and found himself open to the left of Prince Tech keeper K’Ser Htoo.
The sophomore spied Holcomb coming in from the right and put it onto his foot for the 2-0 lead.
“Sean Rearden passed me the ball into the wind and I took it to the line. I saw Ethan coming into the penalty (area) and I just crossed it to him,” Quintas-Gonzalez said.
It was the first, but not the last, helping hand by a teammate offered to Holcomb.
With 6:10 to play, Holcomb chipped the ball over Htoo, looking to get the ball to teammate Eric Phongsa.
There was no one between Phongsa and the net.
The sophomore could have easily knocked it in.
Instead, he watched it roll across, giving Holcomb his 10th goal of the season.
“I thanked him for it. I probably should thank him more for it. He could have easily put it away, but he let it go for me,” Holcomb said.
Phongsa already had one.
Just 30 seconds before the Holcomb goal, Phongsa made a nifty move, switching from his right to left foot while spinning away from the defense, beating Htoo with his left foot for his eighth goal of the year.
Now, it’s time to move on again.
Such is the nature of high school athletics.
The Centaurs will lose 11 seniors to graduation including Jake Marsalisi, Chase Anderson, John Rogers, Cole Hackett, Eridon Mehmeti, Ethan Holcomb, Ethan Adams, Lucas Couture, Aaron Johnson, Matt Tiffany and Isidro de Icaza.
“Cole, Chase, and Ethan have been so important to the team, but this time last year, we were talking about Jack Gelhaus and Eli (Child). As one door closes, others open up, opportunities open up. We have character on the team that can certainly take on the responsibility. Are we going to miss Cole, Ethan and Chase? Yes. We will. But it was also the big question before this season: How are we going to attack without Jack or Eli? You go on, adapt, maybe change the way you play a little, but the kids who are still here are a year older, a year more mature. Let’s see what they can do,” Rearden said.
Boys soccer wins 1st ECC tournament title; ready for states
The Woodstock Academy Centaurs boys soccer team is riding the wave.
“The confidence has got to be sky high,” Woodstock Academy coach Paul Rearden said. “Sometimes, you struggle between belief and confidence. But from being out on the field and looking across, especially when times are hard in big games, and you see who is standing next to you and to be able to see the boys that we have, there is no doubt that they will give every opponent the ultimate battle. We don’t back down.”
The Centaurs proved that last week.
They went in as the fourth seed in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 boys soccer tournament.
They exited as the champions of the conference for a first time.
It wasn’t an easy road.
Woodstock Academy knocked off No. 1 Stonington in double overtime, 2-1, last Tuesday and followed that up with a 1-0 win over No. 2 East Lyme in the championship match on East Lyme’s turf on Thursday.
It's a nice way to go into the Class L state tournament which starts on Tuesday.
The Centaurs, the 13th seed, host No. 20 Prince Tech/University High School cooperative at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Bentley Athletic Complex.
“We don’t have a bad draw,” Woodstock Academy senior Chase Anderson said. “I heard from Coach that we have a pretty nice road to the finals. I just can’t wait. Our run came up a little short last year, but I think we can bounce back this year.”
The Centaurs lost a second-round match to Masuk, 5-1, last season.
It was their first visit to the second round since 2010.
Woodstock Academy has not made a quarterfinal match since 2008.
But the road is not paved with soccer powers this season.
If the Centaurs can get past the opener, fourth-seeded Bassick awaits for a second-round match in Bridgeport Thursday. Masuk, ranked 21st this season, No. 12 Avon or No. 5 seed Platt Tech will await the Centaurs in the quarterfinals if they get that far.
Last week, however, was one the Centaurs will remember for some time.
They had never won an ECC tournament championship.
The only other time Woodstock Academy qualified for the final was in 2015 and Bacon Academy handed the Centaurs a 3-0 loss.
But after a start that saw them lose their first two matches, the ball has bounced much better.
Against Stonington last Tuesday, Woodstock Academy (12-5-2) fell behind when the Bears scored in the first half.
Alejandro Quintas Gonzalez knotted the match early in the second half and senior Ethan Holcomb added the game winner halfway through the second overtime.
“That winner summed up everything about Ethan,” Rearden said.
Holcomb chased down a ball that looked to be “a lost cause,” according to Rearden, deep in the corner.
“He battled for the ball, won it, got his shot off,” Rearden said.
The Stonington keeper looked like he had a bead on it, but the low, hard shot got by him.
“We don’t often breaks like that, but, in that instance, we got it and it was totally deserved. That second-half performance was to the letter of what we asked them to do,” Rearden said.
The Centaurs were on pins and needles early against the Vikings.
A shot by Finn Power went through keeper Jack Lotter’s hands, but Lotter was able to deflect it just enough to keep it wide of the Woodstock Academy net.
It took the Centaurs a bit to settle in, but they got some opportunities late in the first half and cashed in on one.
Woodstock Academy was awarded a corner kick with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first half. That meant defenders Chase Anderson and Cole Hackett quickly came down field to use their height to the Centaurs’ advantage inside the area.
Sean Rearden sent the corner into the middle, but it was cleared by East Lyme (14-4-1). Centaurs fullback Nathan Craig took the ball near midfield and quickly sent it to Holcomb.
Anderson had yet to clear the area.
“I was on the line, nobody had picked me up. Ethan looked up, put a little pass through and I took one touch, got through the whole defense and just tapped it in,” Anderson said. “I’m never down there, I’m always back.”
It was only the senior defender’s second goal of the season.
“I think it might take a couple of days for us to recover from that goal by Chase,” Rearden said with a laugh. “Ethan said it was an assist, I have my doubts.”
That goal, which proved to be the game winner, prompted Anderson to be awarded the Most Outstanding Player plaque.
“Chase puts his body on the line every time he steps out on to the field. If anyone deserves a little extra glory, it’s him,” Rearden said.
Anderson wasn’t the only defensive player who deserved kudos for his effort in the match.
Cole Hackett was dominant in the back.
“We all call him ‘Mr. Perfect,’” Anderson said with a laugh. “He’s a great athlete in every sport that we play.”
Hackett also got involved in the offense against East Lyme.
The Centaurs were awarded a free kick near midfield just over halfway through the second half.
Hackett’s big foot found Quintas Gonzalez inside the area and the sophomore beat two defenders and the keeper to add the insurance goal with 17:55 left.
“It was a relief,” Rearden said. “It was similar to his goal (against Stonington) although not as spectacular. He was tired, he was waiting to come off, but he squeezed every little bit of energy out for that.”
The Centaurs surprised themselves and others when they captured a share of the ECC Division II regular season title along with Bacon Academy and Ledyard.
This one was something they could claim for themselves.
“Last year, we lost (the ECC Division 2 championship) in basketball. This feels so good. It’s my first (championship) ever,” Anderson said. “We shared the Division II title but it’s nothing like this. To come out on top against all these other teams is just an amazing feeling.”
Centaurs boys heading for title tilt
Ethan Holcomb scored 5 minutes, 2 seconds into the second overtime to lift fourth-seeded Woodstock Academy to a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Stonington in an Eastern Connecticut Conference boys soccer Division 1 tournament semifinal at New London High School Tuesday.
The Centaurs will meet second-seeded East Lyme in the Division 1championship match at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at East Lyme.
"I'm proud of every one of these lads," Woodstock Academy coach Paul Rearden said.
The Bears scored in the first half, but Rearden liked what he was seeing as his Centaurs didn't allow them many opportunities.
"We had a great start to the second half, winning every ball with real intent," Rearden said.
It didn't take long for the Centaurs (11-5-2) to get the equalizer.
Eric Phongsa played the ball back to Alejandro Quintas Gonzalez who put in his fifth goal of the season from 25 yards out into the top of the net.
That's where the match stayed until the second overtime.
"The boys continued to push for the winner, both teams really battled," Rearden said.
Holcomb finally chased a Stonington defender into the corner, won the ball, and fired a low, hard shot at the Stonington net.
"We thought the keeper had it covered, but the power beat him and the ball hit the back of the net," Rearden said.
The championship match will be broadcast live on woodstockacademy.org/live on Thursday.
Centaurs into ECC Semifinals
About three minutes into overtime on Friday, Woodstock Academy sophomore striker Eric Phongsa took a through ball from Alejandro Quintas Gonzalez.
His shot off the pass found the back of the net and the Centaurs began the celebration.
One thing had not occurred yet.
There was no sign of a goal from the official.
“The signals the referee was giving weren’t very clear. Did he disallow the goal? Call offsides?
There was a moment of hesitation,” Woodstock Academy coach Paul Rearden said.
An offside call was a possibility as Gonzalez had made the pass from just outside the area into Phongsa.
Fortunately, after the brief hesitation, the officials did indicate the goal was good and the fourth-seeded Centaurs prevailed 1-0 over No. 5 Bacon Academy in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 boys soccer tournament quarterfinal match.
The Centaurs will play Stonington in an ECC semifinal match at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in New London.
"I know the boys are ready," Rearden said. "I think the boys have a point to prove. It was a close game that we played in the first game of the season (a 1-0 loss). I think Ethan Holcomb had already hit the post by the time they scored. I think we're a far more organized, confident team than what we were. We were still finding our feet in that first game, Stonngton was probably in the same position."
Woodstock Academy was dominant throughout, according to Rearden, against Bacon Academy (9-7-1).
“I never thought we were going to lose it,” Rearden said. “It was just about putting the ball into the net.”
The Centaurs (10-5-2) had several good opportunities to do so in regulation.
Matt LaBounty had two good chances early in the second half, but was thwarted on both attempts by the Bacon defense.
Phongsa came within inches of what Rearden described as the potential goal of the season for the team in the second half.
The ball started in the Woodstock Academy area and eight passes later, Phongsa, coming in from the far post, got his foot on a cross, but his shot went wide.
Bacon had only one good opportunity to score, but the Centaurs had to work to keep the Bobcats from getting many looks.
“It was a really tight game against a good, well-organized, and physically strong team. The boys had to dig deep and run themselves ragged to stand any chance,” Rearden said.
The post-regulation speech, after 80 minutes was played without a score, sounded almost identical to the one Rearden had delivered at halftime. Rearden just urged them to continue what they were doing and good things would happen.
“The boys have the belief now if we keep doing what we do, we will find a way to win,” Rearden said. “We’re playing well, moving the ball around well, we kept our shape and discipline and kept on making chances.”
They just needed one to go in and Phongsa finally delivered three minutes into the extra period.
Rearden said any question as to whether there should have been an offside call made was quickly dispelled when Rearden shook hands with the Bacon Academy coaching staff.
“I was speaking to them, literally, a minute later and if it had been in doubt that it was offside, they would have still been riled up. They said (Phongsa) was onside,” Rearden said.
The Centaurs finished up the regular season last Monday with a 2-2 tie with Windham.
Chase Anderson scored his first goal of the season with eight minutes left in regulation to knot the game with the Whippets (13-3-1).
Sean Rearden’s corner found the head of Cole Hackett but his shot was knocked away. The rebound went to Anderson who knocked it in.
Quintas Gonzalez scored the first goal for the Centaurs who finished the regular season with a 9-5-2 mark.
“To be honest with you, I was hoping to get 10 wins, double figures. I even went as far as submitting the (ECC tournament) score (to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference website) but it wouldn’t let me,” Rearden said with a laugh.
League tournament matches do not count toward CIAC records.