No. 13 Cheshire upsets No. 1 Xavier on penalty kicks in Class LL Semifinal

Members of the 13th-seeded Cheshire boys soccer team celebrate their win over top-seeded Xavier in the CIAC Class LL semifinals on Wednesday.

Members of the 13th-seeded Cheshire boys soccer team celebrate their win over top-seeded Xavier in the CIAC Class LL semifinals on Wednesday.

Scott Ericson / Hearst Connecticut Media

WATERBURY — At one point early in the season, the Cheshire boys soccer team was 3-4-1 and nobody on the team was thinking about playing in a state championship.

Fast forward and this weekend in Hartford, that is exactly what Cheshire will be doing.

The No. 13 seeded Rams needed to go to two rounds of penalty kicks in the CIAC Class LL semifinal against No. 1 Xavier but in the end they walked out of Municipal Stadium in Waterbury winning 1-1 (8-5 PKs).

Xavier had a chance to win in the first round of PKs but Cheshire keeper Andres Diosa dove to his left, stopping the potential game-winner and sending it to a second round of PKs.

In the second round, after Xavier shot one over the net and one wide, Zach Chen stepped up and drilled his shot, setting off a wild celebration for Cheshire and their fans.

“It’s not real right now. It’s great,” Diosa said. “We’ve all wanted this for as long as we can remember and we are finally here. We upset everybody. From the beginning, and now we are in the finals. I’m literally in shock right now.”

The Rams beat No. 4 Greenwich and No. 5 Norwalk to reach the semifinals.

Cheshire lost five times this season with three of those losses coming against Xavier, including in the SCC championship game in double overtime.

Cheshire has won one state title, in 1988, and will play the winner of the nightcap between No. 6 Staples and No. 7 Farmington, either Saturday or Sunday at Dillon Stadium in Hartford.

This was the first loss of the season for Xavier (16-1-2).

“(Xavier) played their hearts out. It was a great season and PKs is a tough way to win and to lose. We were on the winning end of PKs against Glastonbury and on the losing end here. Wish we could just play the game out and see how it ends,” Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said. “Both teams had their chances. They hit the crossbar, we had a few opportunities we should have buried but that’s the game of soccer. If you don’t finish your opportunities, it’s going to come back to bite you.”

Xavier wasted no time in striking first with senior John Milardo picking up a ball just outside the 18, dribbling to create a little room and firing across the goal to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game.

Cheshire would largely control the rest of the first half and got the equalizer with Sanhil Banerjee volleying in a cross with 10:56 remaining in the half.

“After they scored, we kind of made some adjustments and we took over the game and we had chances to go up,” Cheshire coach Artur Branco said. “I am very happy for the boys. They work hard, they believe in themselves and they bought into the system. A month and a half ago, we were 3-4-1 and we haven’t really lost since then. We have been capitalizing and this is a great group of kids.”


Andres Diosa, Cheshire: Diosa stopped the last PK of the first round but also made a stellar save with 14 minutes to play on a shot from close range.


“They had a PK shootout against Glastonbury and watched that tape,” Diosa said. “At that point, I was guessing, watching the hips and God was with us. They are a great team. All respect but we knew it wasn’t going to happen again and they weren’t going to beat us again.”; @EricsonSports


CHESHIRE 1 0 0 0—1

XAVIER 1 0 0 0 —1

Scoring: X—John Milardo 1g; C—Sanhil Banerjee 1g

Goalies: C—Andres Diosa 8 saves; X—Spencer Misenti 7 saves