Masuk upends No. 1 team, to play for state title

Ryan Hodska (10) scored for Masuk in the 26th minute off an assist from Stephen Murphy.

The Masuk High boys soccer team did what it has done all season in its Class L semifinal meeting with E.O. Smith at Falcon Field in Meriden on Monday night.

And because coach Antonio Viscuso’s club did what no other team has been able to do, defeat the top seed from Storrs by a score of 1-0, the fourth-seeded Panthers (20-2-1) will play 10th-seeded Daniel Hand of Madison (15-3-2) for the state championship on Saturday at 10 a.m. at West Haven High.

Hand defeated No. 3 seed Guilford, 1-0, in its semifinal. The Tigers are the defending Class champion, having defeated Joel Barlow in double overtime a year ago.

This is Masuk’s first trip to the finals.

“All season my backline has been there for me,” said Masuk senior keeper Sam Forsythe, who shutout E.O. Smith and handed the No. 1 seed its first loss of the season.

“Every one trusts in each other. And if this was the last time we seniors (15 strong) got to play for our town, we wanted to be at our best.”

Ryan Hodska scored the lone goal at the 25:36 mark and it was a thing of beauty.

Hodska found Ryan Winkler in the middle and the junior striker sent a pass to senior Stephen Murphy wide on the right wing.

Murphy perfectly paced his cross to Hodska, who blistered a shot past E.O. Smith keeper Dylan Pallanck.

“Transition has been our game all season,” Viscuso said. “We go to the goal and Hodska had a deep line run and finished.”

E.O. Smith coach John Blomstrann said, “We really didn’t think we could get shut out this year, and we did. They definitely deserved to go on to the final. Masuk is a very good team.

“We’ve been so dominant through nineteen games (all wins) that this is a shock to the system.”

Viscuso said, “You have to credit John and his coaches. They have been winning soccer since I was in grade school. They beat us last year (7-0) in the quarterfinals, when we were wet behind the ears (as the 24 seed).

“They (his players) saw that when we got that first goal that we cut them. We said that now we have that confidence that we can take this team.

“We’ve always relied on our back line. We call them the LOD — Legion of Doom.”

Max Mastrorocco, Zach McCollum, Aidan McShane and Matt Machan faced six corners, including three in the game’s final ten minutes, and kept the high-scoring E.O. Smith combine off the board (they had 13 goals in three state games).

Midfielders Tommy Hooker, Alexander Vassilakis, Murphy, Colin Davis, Hodska, Kyle Konkol, Christian Aja and Kyle Cirillo were tested time and time again by E.O. Smith’s talented players, especially Fairfield University-bound striker Cooper Knecht and fellow senior Larson Richards.

Seven minutes into the second half off a Knecht corner, Stephen Ruchalski had a point-blank shot deflected back into the box by Forsythe.

Knecht followed up, but his rebound shot was wide.

“Perhaps that last head ball (by Richards) was our best chance, but he (Forsythe) was there,” Blomstrann said. “We had opportunities, but couldn’t get the ball in the net.”

Hodska said, “We knew they were a great offensive team and we would have to make our chances. Murph got me a great ball.

“This is a great group of seniors and we’ve been together through thick and thin, as sophomores and juniors. This was a great all-around team effort.”

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