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Eagles Fall To Hornets 4-3

East Hartford jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings but East Catholic’s rally fell short in a 4-3 loss at home in Manchester Thursday afternoon.

Christian Caballero of East Hartford puts the tag on Josh Zbierski of East Catholic at the plate as he tried to score from second base during their baseball game Thursday afternoon. East Hartford held on for a 4-3 victory.

Christian Caballero of East Hartford puts the tag on Josh Zbierski of East Catholic at the plate as he tried to score from second base during their baseball game Thursday afternoon. East Hartford held on for a 4-3 victory.

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Class L Girls Volleyball Semifinals

Down two games to zero, Farmington came back to beat Ledyard in dramatic fashion in the first Class L girls volleyball semifinal at New Britain High School Thursday night. In the second semifinal match, RHAM held on to defeat Bristol Eastern in an emotional five-game victory. After semis this competitive and exciting, the final will have some big shoes to fill.

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New Britain, CT – 11/14/13 – The RHAM bench celebrates at the conclusion of their victory over Bristol Eastern in the Class L girls volleyball semifinal match at New Britain High School Thursday night. BRAD HORRIGAN | bhorrigan@courant.com

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Class L Field Hockey Rematch – Conard beats Hall 3-1

Last week, the Conard and Hall field hockey teams — crosstown rivals — played to a tie.

That was unsatisfying to both teams.

They got another chance to face each other Wednesday night in a first-round game in the Class L state tournament, this time with no chance to tie.

But ninth-seeded Conard didn’t want to take any chances. The Chieftains scored seven minutes into the game and then twice more to beat No. 8 Hall, 3-1. For Lori Riley’s complete story click here:

 Kiernan Henderson (L) got the scoring started for Conard at the 23:14 mark of the first half as she slips the ball past Hall goalie Kathleen Keegand Wednesday night.

Kiernan Henderson (L) got the scoring started for Conard at the 23:14 mark of the first half as she slips the ball past Hall goalie Kathleen Keegand Wednesday night.

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CCC Boy’s Soccer Semifinal

Berlin struck first after Michael Lathrop scored with 11:25 remaining in the first period against Farmington at Middletown high School Monday evening during their CCC soccer semifinal. Colin Cheesman scored the tying goal with 4:20 left and then struck the winning goal for Farmington with 34 seconds remaining in the second period for a 3-2 victory and Farmington will play RHAM on Wednesday night at Middletown High School for the championship.

Colin Cheesman (second from left) is mobbed by teammates Nicholas Mello (L), Kamil Kolacz, #11, Evan Peluso, #10, and Evan Hughes (R) after his goal with 34 seconds remaining in the second period gave Farmington a 3-2 victory against Berlin in the CCC soccer tournament semifinal at Middletown High School Monday evening. Cheesman also scored the tying goal with 4:20 left.

Colin Cheesman (second from left) is mobbed by teammates Nicholas Mello (L), Kamil Kolacz, #11, Evan Peluso, #10, and Evan Hughes (R) after his goal with 34 seconds remaining in the second period gave Farmington a 3-2 victory against Berlin in the CCC soccer tournament semifinal at Middletown High School Monday evening. Cheesman also scored the tying goal with 4:20 left.

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Cross Country Championship at Wickham Park

Wickham Park in Manchester was the setting for the CCC Cross Country championships Wednesday afternoon. Hall’s Ari Klau helped the boy’s team to the title and Tolland took home the girls. “We came here to have fun today and not worry too much about winning,” said Tolland coach Judi Lafontaine. “My girls are fighters and they don’t know how to do anything else but win right now.”

With the Hartford skyline and the fall foliage as a backdrop the varsity girls make their way across a field near the start of the race. — John Woike / Hartford Courant, Oct. 16, 2013

With the Hartford skyline and the fall foliage as a backdrop the varsity girls make their way across a field near the start of the race. — John Woike / Hartford Courant, Oct. 16, 2013

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High School Soccer Starts

A few things signal the changing of the seasons for me.

Crisp nights and brisk morning walks with the dog.

Sunsets and the start of the fall high school sports season.

Tuesday evening Conard and Berlin battled under the lights at Sage Park in Berlin where Matheus Souza led Conard with two goals in a 4-2 victory.

Matheus Souza of Conard battles with Kris Langevin of Berlin for a loose ball during the first half of their season opener at Sage Park in Berlin Tuesday evening. Berlin had a tough time keeping Souza in check as he scored 2 of Conard's goals as they defeated Berlin 4-2.

Matheus Souza of Conard battles with Kris Langevin of Berlin for a loose ball during the first half of their season opener at Sage Park in Berlin Tuesday evening. Berlin had a tough time keeping Souza in check as he scored 2 of Conard’s goals as they defeated Berlin 4-2.

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Connecticut Swish Basketball Camp

The Connecticut Swish Basketball Camp, at Farmington High School, is midway through its second session of a three session series. The camp, in its 10th year, offers boys entering first through ninth grades a chance to learn and improve their basketball skills. I spent some time on this rainy afternoon inside the camp and here are a few photos of the boys hard at work. For information on the camp, email SwishCamp@comcast.net.

Zach Schaedler, 14, of Farmington, brings the ball up court after grabbing a rebound during a scrimmage of eighth and ninth graders.

Zach Schaedler, 14, of Farmington, brings the ball up court after grabbing a rebound during a scrimmage of eighth and ninth graders.

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2013 Military Bowl at Rentschler Field

The Military Bowl features Connecticut’s best high school football players in a summer showcase of talent at Rentschler Field.

East Hartford, CT - 06.29.2013 - National Guard defensive lineman Zack Creeron, right, tries to bring down Marines quarterback Quinn Fleeting in the 2013 Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Classic Military Bowl at Rentschler Field Saturday afternoon. BRAD HORRIGAN | bhorrigan@courant.com

East Hartford, CT – 06.29.2013 – National Guard defensive lineman Zack Creeron, right, tries to bring down Marines quarterback Quinn Fleeting in the 2013 Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Classic Military Bowl at Rentschler Field Saturday afternoon. BRAD HORRIGAN | bhorrigan@courant.com

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I’ll Take It.

oxford-web – 06/09/2013 – MIDDLETOWN, CT;   Good reaction from an underdog team. Oxford shuts down a rally to keep Cromwell scoreless. Oxford wins 4-0 for the CIAC Class S Baseball Championship trophy.

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One Game Away

The Masuk and Foran high school’s softball teams each won their contests in the Class L semi-final games at Biondi Field Tuesday. Foran pulled off a victory over Maloney, 5-4,  and Masuk, 26-0, beat Berlin, 2-1. Masuk hopes to finish off a perfect season when they meet Foran in the championship game either Friday or Saturday. They are one game away from perfection.

2013.06.04 - West Haven, CT - Foran pitcher Jess Harkness is hugged by catcher Danni Kemp after Foran defeated Maloney, 5-4, in game one of the Class L semi-final softball tournament at Biondi Field in West Haven Tuesday. Kemp had a three-run homer in the sixth inning to put Foran on top.

2013.06.04 – West Haven, CT – Foran pitcher Jess Harkness is hugged by catcher Danni Kemp after Foran defeated Maloney, 5-4, in game one of the Class L semi-final softball tournament at Biondi Field in West Haven Tuesday. Kemp had a three-run homer in the sixth inning to put Foran on top.

2013.06.04 - West Haven, CT - Masuk pitcher, Tatum Buckley (10), first baseman Melissa Peet, (30) catcher Kayla Crisci (3) and Ashley Fedor (9) celebrate after they beat Berlin, 2-1, in game two of the Class L semi-final softball tournament at Biondi Field in West Haven Tuesday.

2013.06.04 – West Haven, CT – Masuk pitcher, Tatum Buckley (10), first baseman Melissa Peet, (30) catcher Kayla Crisci (3) and Ashley Fedor (9) celebrate after they beat Berlin, 2-1, in game two of the Class L semi-final softball tournament at Biondi Field in West Haven Tuesday.

 

 

 

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Uphill Climb

  • 2013.05.17 -  It's an uphill battle for the Weaver High baseball team which has lost 70 consecutive games, the longest current streak in Connecticut high school baseball. The team played, and lost, to East Catholic Friday afternoon in Manchester. Its last victory was in 2010. Since the start of the 2007 season Weaver's record is 2-128.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -Stalys Delos Santos leads his teammates in series of stretches before taking the field. Despite the losing streak day in and day out the team members, some playing baseball for the first time, show up for practices and games.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Stalys Delos Santos, Erick Diaz and Brander Vega of Weaver watch as East Catholic players take infield practice before their game.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Head coach Jamie Verab gathers his players together comes for a team cheer before they start their game. Verab encourages the kids before every game even though the odds of winning are slim.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - The Beavers struck first as  Daniel Livent scored to take a 1-0 lead but that quickly disappeared in the bottom of the inning.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Juan de la Cruz allowed 9 runs during the first inning in a 12-2 loss. De La Cruz is the lone senior on the team and the only player to have experienced a win.

"I was a freshman against Bloomfield," De La Cruz said. "We scored four runs in the last inning. I'll never forget it."
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Stalys Delso Santos charges a ground ball as Omar Montalvo of East Catholic heads to thirdbase during the first inning but even routine plays turn into...
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Costly errors as this bobble play turned into...
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Three runs as Omar Montalvo, #5, waits at the plate for Jaysen Nunez (C) and Andrew Stutts to score The trio scored on a triple by Tyler Aprea in the first inning to take a 9-1 lead.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Head coach Jamie Verab pats Stalys Delso Santos on the back for his efforts despite an error at SS that allowed three runs to score. against East Catholic Friday afternoon. Verab and the players keep tings in perspective by having a good time and spending much of their time laughing and joking with one another.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Luis Majias came in to pitch the second inning in relief of starter Juan De La Cruz after he gave up nine runs. Head coach Jamie Verab says "We've had 1-2-3 innings, scored some runs and made plays, we just don't do enough of them. My players are here for every game, and they're trying."
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - James Brown of Weaver stabs at a ground ball charging the ball from third base. Many players are picking a glove and bat for the first time so fundamentals of the game, as in getting in the proper position to field a grounder, not only in practices, but also in games, is strongly enforced.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Stalys Delso Santos stretches for a flyball but can't quite catch it. Dropping pop-ups, such as what happened in this game, happens too often.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Frankhery Gonzalez keeps the ball in front of him but can't make the play at first base. Gonzalez struggled with fielding ground balls cleanly during the loss which brought on some words of advice from Verab at the end of the inning.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - "What I can't stand is not hustling and not being there mentally," Verab said. "Diving for balls, backing up, knocking down a ball and staying with it; those are the kind of things which we don't do enough of."
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Jaysen Nunez of East Catholic waits for the ball as Stalys Delso Santos tries to steal second base but was easily picked off when he hesitated en route.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Nick Newsome is one of two cricket players on the team. "Baseball is a little like cricket, which I've played a lot," said Newsome, a native of Jamaica who has been in the U.S. for three years. "Hitting a baseball is much more difficult. The bat is round; in cricket it's a broader bat."
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - (L to R) Brander Vega, Juan de la Cruz and Daniel Livent get a kick out watching Nick Newsome as he swings at a pitch during his at bat. Livent says "The hardest part is understanding that not everyone at Weaver has played baseball since they were little," he said. "Some of them picked up a bat and ball for the first time this year. Sure, you try to make plays and get hits. Sometimes I've got to tell myself, 'At least I, and hopefully other guys, are giving 100 percent and trying.' No one can ever take that away."
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Head coach Jamie Verab gives a fist pump to Luis Majias after reaching third base late in the game. Majias later scored for one of the Beaver's 2 runs in a 12-2 loss as their losing streak stretched to 70 straight games.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT - Erick Diaz (R) high-fives Luis Majias after he scored one of Weaver's 2 runs in a 12-2 loss to East Catholic Friday afternoon.
  • 2013.05.17 - Manchester, CT -  Even though the Beaver's suffered yet another loss in the end Luis Majias (L) and Nick Newsome (R) can still laugh and joke with one another. Head coach Jamie Verab has some optimism for the future. He expects around 12 underclassmen to return next season. Experience hopefully means improvement.

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Run Down

South Windsor shortstop Alex Goslin runs down East Hartford runner Taylor Cafro after Cafro tried to steal 2nd. East Hartford beat South Windsor 4-2 at South Windsor High School.

South Windsor shortstop Alex Goslin runs down East Hartford base runner Taylor Cafro after Cafro tried to steal 2nd. East Hartford beat South Windsor 4-2 at South Windsor High School.

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Training Session

2013.05.15 - Simsbury, CT - The Simsbury High School Crew teams were out for a training session on the Farmington River Wednesday afternoon. The teams will be competing in the Connecticut Public Schools Rowing Association Sprints Championship at Lake Waramaug this coming Sunday.  Photo by JOHN WOIKE | woike@courant.com

2013.05.15 – Simsbury, CT – The Simsbury High School Crew teams were out for a training session on the Farmington River Wednesday afternoon. The teams will be competing in the Connecticut Public Schools Rowing Association Sprints Championship at Lake Waramaug this coming Sunday. Photo was taken with my Nikon D300s, transferred to my iPhone using an Eye-Fi card then filtered through Instagram. Photo by JOHN WOIKE | woike@courant.com

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The Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Defeat

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Ingalls Rink in New Haven on the Yale campus was the site for the Division II boy’s hockey state championship Wednesday night. I haven’t covered a game at the “Whale” in a few years but I remembered it was a great place for a championship game, lots of energy which was evident as the East Catholic fans came prepared packing 11 buses to cheer on their Eagles.

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Kevin Robinson of Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe proved to an elusive player as Liam Donohue and the East Catholic defense found out quickly in the first period as Robison scored two goals, the first 1:45 into the period and the second with 11:01 left to give the Mustangs a 2-0 lead.

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Then East Catholic made it 2-1 when Alex Manner slipped the puck past goalie Kyle Greenhut with 49 seconds left in the opening period.

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Brian O’Connell (L) led the celebration of Manner’s (C) goal as the Eagles fans cheer along while Conor Scharlop is left alone behind the goal as the Mustangs lead narrows to one.

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Kyle Scheetz of Fairfield Warde battles for a control the puck from his knees after being checked to the ice in front of the goal during the second period.

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Brian O’Connell’s goal with 9:08 remaining in the second period gave the Eagles new life as they tied the score at 2.

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Griffin Casey (C) found a gap between Daniel Silvestri (L) and Charlie Meder (R) during the first period and when he scored with 6:08 remaining in the second it gave the Eagles their first lead at 3-2 which is how they ended the period.

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The third period began the same way as the first two as Kevin Robinson continued to put pressure of the East Catholic defense as he skated in from the left wing.

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Goalie Thomas Usseglio made the initial save on Robinson’s shot later in the period but somehow the puck got past Usseglio on the other side of the goal giving Robinson his third goal of the evening tying the score at 3 with 5:31 left.

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Thomas Kryspin celebrates his goal at the end of regulation that would have given the Mustangs a 4-3 victory but…

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as the East Catholic players lied on the ice in disbelief, thinking their season had come to an end a review by the goal judge ruled the shot a no goal and the game went to overtime tied at 3 apiece.

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Thomas Usseglio made the save on Kyle Scheetz’s shot as the defense collapsed on the play during overtime stunting a chance for the win.

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With 5:18 left in the extra frame, Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe was awarded a penalty shot after the referees ruled that East Catholic had fallen on the puck inside the crease. “It is a tough call for an official,” East Catholic coach Drew Clarkin said. “Clearly he was in position. From our vantage point you can’t tell a heck of a lot. We have to live with the call and live with the result.”

“I almost I had it and I was about to put my glove on it but [someone] knocked it away,” Usseglio said. “Someone’s stick came in and it went to the far post. I stuck my pad out and I don’t know what happened after that.”

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“I saw him coming down and I saw it in his eyes he was going to deke,” Usseglio said. “I wanted to get him before he could come down and deke. I wanted to get him with poke check. … I missed the poke check and I slid and I didn’t get far enough.” Robinson scored all four goals giving the Mustangs their first ever title.

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Brian O’Connell (L) and Sean Keleher (R) were the first ones to reach Usseglio to console the junior who made 31 saves on the night as the Eagles season came to a close.

It was one of the best hockey games I’ve had the pleasure to cover in a very long time. I had been reading Courant reporter Matt Conyers stories and Tweets throughout the tournament which seemed to have so many games in OT but even he said afterward it was one of his most memorable games.

Pro Tip: Shooting ice hockey can present plenty of obstacles. Some arenas provide little holes in the plexiglass to stick your camera lens through which gives you a cleaner image and your camera has an easier time focusing on the fast paced action as the players come flying down ice. The down side of that is limited swing from side to side in the small hole and switching between focal lengths with a separate body can be tricky and you will miss some shots. Shooting through the glass can create a distortion if you are not shooting straight on and can cause all kinds of interference for your auto-focus which will drive you crazy as the lens searches for its subject. The trouble here is finding a piece of glass that hasn’t been to scared from pucks and sticks. Some arenas have areas on the concourse level that afford you a nice overhead shot but I didn’t like the fact the glass was the same height all around the rink. Many, like the XL Center, will be higher behind the goal and extend around the corners slightly then drop down a couple feet to give a clean view of the goal area without the top of the glass in the frame. If you look at the photo of the East Catholic players lying on the ice at the end of regulation you can make out the top of the glass.

The problem with shooting from ice level is that you limit yourself to one goal and the hope the scores happen on your end. The first period I chose the Eagles scoring end since they are the home team for our readership so I need to focus more on their action. It burned me on Robinson’s first two goals which happened on the other side but then Alex Manner scored on my end to give me a nice reaction photo. I stayed at the same end for the second period so I could shoot goalie Thomas Usseglio. I always like to have something of both sides, offense and defense, just in case we need something of a certain player. The third period I chose to stay at ice level, a lot of times I will go up so that I can get both ends (the safe route), but I figured I would take a chance. I settled into the East Catholic bench side behind the goal which gave me a clean line of sight to their bench. I thought that if they scored on the other end the odds are the players will head to the bench for jubilation. I switched to the other side of the goal midway through the period since a lot of the Fairfield players seemed to come down their bench side. That proved to be fortuitous since Thomas Kryspin’s goal and reaction at the end of regulation was right in front of me.

For the overtime period I decided to stay put and hope for the best. When the controversial call was made and the penalty shot was awarded to Fairfield I was in perfect position for the winning shot as Robinson deked my direction and shot around Usseglio as the bench looked on behind them. I was lucky that my camera didn’t decide to have a focusing issue at that moment. After Robinson skated away to celebrate with his teammates at the other end I was able to capture one of my favorite photos as the East Catholic players came off the bench to console their goalie. These kids played their hearts out and left everything on the ice with nothing to be ashamed of.

Camera settings: Nikon D300s, 1/500th shutter, 17-55mm f2.8 set to 40 mm at 2.8 and auto white balance.