Reiter hat trick leads Litchfield past Shepaug Valley for Berkshire League boys soccer title

Litchfield's boys soccer team won the Berkshire League's first-ever league tournament championship with a convincing win over Shepaug Valley Friday night at Nonnewaug High School.

Litchfield's boys soccer team won the Berkshire League's first-ever league tournament championship with a convincing win over Shepaug Valley Friday night at Nonnewaug High School.

Peter Wallace / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WOODBURY – This time it was convincing.

Litchfield’s boys soccer team had a great regular season, but put away the Berkshire League title with an ugly tie game at Northwestern.

Friday, in the first-ever BL Tournament final, at Nonnewaug High School, the No. 1 seed Cowboys blew that memory away with a 4-1 virtuoso performance over No. 3 Shepaug.

“That was our best half of the year,” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis, after his 15-1-2 team scored three emphatic goals in the first half, adding a penalty kick goal midway through the second.

“They were good; they were really good,” said Shepaug coach Jim Stinson, whose Spartans, 13-5, accounted for Litchfield’s only loss in the first game of the season, then beat No. 2 seed Nonnewaug for a second time in the tournament semifinals.

“Winning the league title with a tie was nasty,” said senior Nate Reiter. “We wanted to get out to a solid start for this game.”

Reiter led the Cowboys’ assault on Shepaug’s net with two goals in the first half plus the second-half PK.

“We haven’t played our best in the last four games before this,” said sophomore Travis Lipinsky. “The tie against Northwestern motivated us to get back to our game.”

It took Lipinsky six minutes to show the Spartans the Cowboys’ game was back, better than ever.

The two teams play similar styles at their best – short crisp passing, ball control and speed, unlike the more physical play from Nonnewaug.

After racing up and down the field for the first five minutes, Lipinsky proved faster than the Spartan defense.

Ben Mwanza sent Lipinsky a long clearing pass 40 yards from the Spartan goal. Lipinsky blew past one defender, then sped around advancing Shepaug keeper Omar Mangino to an empty net.

Shepaug’s defense stopped a near breakaway in the 18th minute. A minute later, Reiter duplicated Lipinsky’s goal: Mangino came out off the line; Reiter sidestepped, shooting the 2-0 goal home.

Twenty-five minutes in, Reiter whistled in a goal from 20 yards out, 3-0.

Litchfield keeper T.J. Gostkowski was out to nip a Spartan charge with eight minutes left in the half.

By then, the Cowboy offense was a tidal wave, forcing two great saves in a row by Mangino in the final seconds.

In the second half, Litchfield’s defense took over. Shepaug’s offense controlled much of the clock, but, time after time, a sure-footed Cowboy blocked the last 20 yards to the goal.

“Find some energy,” Coach Andrulis hollered to his offense, 15 minutes into the half.

A minute later, the Cowboys responded with a drive into the Spartan penalty box. A defender threw a body slam. Reiter lined up for the penalty kick, booting it in for his hat trick.

There was no coming back.]

Nevertheless, with 58 seconds left, Shepaug got to the box. Gostkowski stumbled, turning the ball loose. Gavin Abdella put the Spartans on the scoreboard.

Both teams move on to the Class S State Tournament next week. Litchfield, the No. 4 seed, gets a first-round bye on Monday, then hosts Monday’s Terryville/Plainfield winner Wednesday.

Shepaug Valley, No. 7, is home Monday against Notre Dame-Fairfield.

LITCHFIELD 4, SHEPAUG VALLEY 1

At Nonnewaug High School

Shepaug 0 1 – 1

Litchfield 3 1 – 4

Goals: S – Gavin Abdella. L – Travis Lipinsky; Nate Reiter 3. Assist: L – Ben Mwanza. Shots: 8-8. Saves: S – Omar Mangino 2. L – J.T. Gostkowski 3.

Records: Shepaug Valley 13-5. Litchfield 15-1-2.