By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – While the Bristol Eastern boys soccer team’s season came to a heartbreaking conclusion in its 1-0 Class L quarterfinal round game against No. 8 Guilford, the squad played out one of its best campaigns ever.
An undefeated regular season (15-1-2), a No. 1 ranking in the CIAC state tournament, and several milestones broken – that’s a full season in a nutshell.
“It’s been a great year,” said Eastern coach Bill Sweet after the team’s only loss. “It’s been a wonderful year. The kids have been great. I just told them, it seems like it was just August two weeks ago when we came out.”
The 2019 squad matched the 1993 and 1994 teams in terms of undefeated regular seasons.
This past year, Bristol Eastern and East Hartford were the only two teams in the Central Connecticut Conference that did not lose a regular season match.
And the CCC was jacked this year with the likes of Glastonbury, Southington, Class LL champion Hall, Wethersfield, Farmington, Plainville and Bristol Central.
The Lancers were undefeated on the road (7-0-1) and 8-1-1 from Alumni Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern.
Offensively, the team averaged 3.1 goals-per-game, led by Jake Woznicki – a certifiable bulldog – that easily established the school record for goals in a season with 39 and is the all-time leading goal scorer in program history.
He led an amazing senior core of Jon Loja, Kyle Cyr, Adam Poniatowski, and Dante Costantiello.
That’s a crew who led by example, pushed the envelope, and helped carry the leadership load.
“Actually, the seniors never cheated us,” said Sweet. “They stepped up but [against] Guilford, they just didn’t make that last play.”
Woznicki scored all the goals over the first four matches of the season but the scoring started evening out a bit off a couple blowout games for the Lancers.
In Eastern’s 7-0 thrashing of Middletown on Sept. 27, Dylan Piazza, Dom Femiak, and Poniatowski all notched goals and one week later – in a 5-0 drubbing at East Catholic – Femiak, Loja, and Drew Dauphinee each chipped in tallies and scores.
Femiak kicked in a goal in Eastern’s 1-1 tie against Central on Oct. 7, Tyler Borry and Brandon Greger notched scores in the Lancers’ 2-0 victory over Berlin on Oct. 18 while both Borry boys – Tyler and Adam – along with Luke Hammer and Piazza – jammed in goals in a 7-0 blitzing versus Platt.
And don’t forget Hammer’s overtime goal in the 3-2 win over Central on Nov. 4 as Eastern finished the campaign with an undefeated regular season ledger.
At one point, the Lancers were ranked as high as No. 5 in the state and that ranking was well deserved.
“We’ve got a rating in the state,” said Sweet. “We had a wonderful record. We didn’t have any losses. We just played so well. [And] they were the ones that did it.”
Three of those seniors were captains as Woznicki, Costantiello, and Dauphinee, along with keeper Nate DiLoreto, led the program.
“They did lead us, I’ll say that,” said Sweet of his captains. “They all had their little jobs, they all did well, they worked hard, and they were in the weight room some.”
“The seniors set the tone…I can’t complain.”
The defense was outstanding, allowing only seven goals all season long.
In fact, Eastern’s squad allowed the fewest goals out of all the number one seeds in tournament play this year.
That’s a credit to DiLoreto, Hammer, Andrew Lozier, Dauphinee and Costantiello along that back line.
When the defensive crew allowed just 0.38 goals-per-game, what more could be asked of that unit?
In the strangest stat of the season, the Lancers allowed just one goal on the road, coming in Eastern’s 1-1 tie at Lewis Mills on Sept. 24.
And the Lancers certainly earned that top Class L ranking, the second time in program history Eastern was ranked No. 1 in the postseason and it took that literal last second goal by Guilford to end one heck of a run.
But that loss couldn’t damper what the Bristol Eastern boys soccer program accomplished this year.
“It’s gone so fast that it’s just been a dream,” said Sweet.