By Andrew Lombardo
MIDDLETOWN — The Xavier Falcons celebrated their Senior Night in style with a 7-0 soccer win over SCC divisional rival East Haven on Wednesday night at Larry McHugh Field.
“The seniors worked hard all season long, all four years they have been in the program,” Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said. “We figured tonight we would get them a lot of playing time, reward them and give them some chances to score.”
Xavier recognized 11 seniors in pregame festivities: Steven Pepler, Ryan Suprin, Alec Sotomayor, Robert Borruso, Fabian Morales, Brendan Montano, Benito Elcuri, Joseph Marcin, Zachary Ciampi, Aiden Lynch and Christian Schaefer.
“It was so much fun to play with my senior friends that I’ve been with since day one. It just felt amazing,” Lynch said.
Reward them, Fitzgerald did, as he fielded a starting lineup entirely of seniors despite many playing outside their regular positions. The most extreme version of this was Pepler, the Falcons’ goalkeeper, leading the attack up top, where he produced a goal and was close to scoring another.
“Normally I play in goal, so it was very different and a lot of fun for me to play forward,” Pepler said. “But I feel like our senior class has great chemistry and we are coming together really well and showed it on the field tonight, having fun and winning.”
The Falcons, who lost to Amity 2-1 on Monday, improved to 11-2-1.
Even early on, the match was never in doubt, with a plethora of dangerous scoring opportunities showing the Falcons’ overall talent level to be too much for East Haven (1-12) to overcome.
The Falcons broke through with their first goal in the 10th minute with a cutback back pass from Sotomayor to Elcuri, who finished the shot in front of the net. Just five minutes later came Pepler’s goal off a corner kick. Pepler, clearly eager to get his goal, reached up to head the ball into the back corner off a perfect delivery from Elcuri.
The Falcons’ last goal of the opening half came from Elcuri again, off a blocked shot rebound from Pepler.
The second half was more of the same from both teams, as the Falcons continued to pressure East Haven into mistakes and giveaways in its own half, leading to several dangerous scoring chances.
The first goal of the second half came off of a giveaway in the 60th minute, leading to a counter-attack led by Liam Houchin and Montano, with Houchin scoring off a powerful shot from outside the box. Montano followed with a counter-attack goal of his own minutes later, dribbling into the box before placing his shot in high corner of the net.
The Falcons’ final goals were scored by William Webb and Shane Sutton, both from cutback passes into the box, a hallmark of Fitzgerald-coached teams.
Before the Falcons begin preparing for the upcoming SCC and Class L tournaments, they must go on the road for games against Shelton and Cheshire, two opponents the Falcons beat in tough fashion earlier in the season.
“We have to stay focused,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to remember we have three goals: win the division, win the conference, win states. So we just need to stay focused on our goals and make sure we get back to practice tomorrow and prepare ourselves for success in the postseason.”
Echoed Morales: “We need to keep working hard, practicing every day, not taking any days off.”