SOUTHBURY—In the aftermath of Bunnell High’s 4-0 loss to Pomperaug in the SWC boys soccer quarterfinals on Friday night, Bulldogs coach Joe Baccielo wasn’t about to make any excuses.
“They were the better team obviously,” Baccielo said. “We just tried defensively to make it difficult for them, to stay in the game and give us a chance.”
For the better part of 60 minutes, the seventh-seeded Bulldogs did just that, staying within one goal of the second-seeded Panthers at Edward Arum Athletic Field.
A one-minute stretch of the second half changed all that, however, as Pomperaug’s Andrew Doan scored a pair of goals as the Panthers took control of the game.
The first tally came via a penalty kick after the Bulldogs were caught on an accidental handball in the box.
A quick turnover led to Doan’s second goal less than 60 seconds later, though.
“Unfortunately, the handball to give them the penalty kick just kind of broke the game open,” Baccielo said. “It just gave them the momentum and it was done from there.”
Pomperaug coach Joe Mancini admitted the first 60 minutes were scary for his team, despite the Panthers’ domination of both possession and winning 50-50 balls.
“If you can’t finish your chances, you leave yourself open for somebody to get back in it,” Mancini said. “(The PK) was big. As soon as we got that second goal, the confidence went a little bit higher and we knew we had it. Then we stepped it up.”
Jack O’Brien had the other two goals for Pomperaug, which improved to 11-6-1 on the season.
Bunnell, which slipped to 8-5-4 overall, now awaits the start of the Class L state tournament.
“Making the SWCs was a goal, having a winning record was a goal, making the state tournament was a goal,” Baciello said. “We accomplished all of those things and we gave ourselves a chance to tonight, but the better team won.”
After O’Brien gave Pomperaug a 1-0 lead on a nifty move with 17:45 to play in the first half, the Bulldogs hung around for a while.
Bunnell even had a couple of chances to find the equalizer early in the second half.
Anthony Pereira had a 25-yard shot that was right on Pomperaug goalie Graylen Wilson (4 saves) while Adam Sowinski redirected a ball just wide of the goal with 30:45 left to play.
Those were Bunnell’s top two chances, though, as 10 minutes later Pomperaug scored their two goals to take control.
Any hopes of a comeback by Bunnell were further marred by the loss of two of the Bulldogs’ top players—junior Quinton Budnick (hip) and senior Jojo Lumasag (dislocated finger).
“Essentially we lost two of our best players to freak injuries,” Baccielo said. “That doesn’t help when you’re up against it.”
Owen Jaekle made 10 saves for Bunnell, seven of which came in the first half when the Bulldogs were hanging around.
Mancini advanced to the semifinals impressed with what he’s seen out of the Bulldogs this season.
“They’ve come along way,” Mancini said. “Joe has done a great job with them. This is probably the best they’ve played since the 2011 championship team. It’s the best I’ve seen them as a group. They have a bright future. They’re pretty young and they’re just going to get better.”
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