MERIDEN — His girls dejected, in tears, yet terribly proud of their effort in the second half, Dave Sullivan had a question for his Suffield soccer team.
"Do you still want to stay?" Sullivan asked.
"Of course," they answered.
This was a memorable day for Suffield soccer. This, too, was a memorable day for the Sullivan family. Suffield. Sullivan. Suffivan. Sullifield. They all seemed to run together over the course of five hours Saturday at Falcon Field.
Both the Suffield boys and girls entered their state championship games here undefeated. Both entered 19-0. And as it often is on such poignant days for a town and a family, the story would emerge with mixed emotions. Only one would leave 20-0.
Dave Sullivan coaches the girls. They played a lousy first half and an inspired second half before finally falling to St. Joseph-Trumbull 2-1 in the Class LL championship.
Dave's son Sean is a senior captain, a star playing his last game for the boys team. The Wildcats would beat Ellington for the third time this season, a convincing 2-0 Class M victory. It not only gave the Wildcats the first perfect season in Connecticut boys soccer since Farmington in 2003, but also the first state three-peat since Avon in the Eighties.
Suffield and the Sullivans are no strangers to soccer success. The boys have won nine state titles. The girls have won six. They both won in 2006.
Sean, meanwhile, finished his career with 52 goals, recently surpassing his dad as the second all-time leading scorer in Suffield history. How much is Sean a part of Suffield soccer?
"When he was little, I used to use him as a cone at the girls practice," Dave said. "The kids would dribble by him. He has been all his life with us."
Once an orange cone, Sean completed his high school career as a champion in Suffield white. He didn't score Saturday; Derek Zarzycki and Brent Baskin did, but this didn't lessen his satisfaction.
"It's every senior's dream to go out with a state championship," Sean said. "It's a shame the girls couldn't win, but I know they played their hardest. Obviously, we wanted us both to win, but it's still going to be a rejoiceful day in the Sullivan household."
Sean couldn't watch the girls championship game. He was preparing for his own.
"As far as a father, I couldn't be more proud of the way Sean is and the way he plays," Dave said. "People asked me how I feel about him beating me on goals. I wished he beat me by a little more."
"As a coach it's tough today, because there wouldn't be a better feeling than if we win it and then my son wins it. Sean is best friends with Jillian Consolini, my sweeper, so I've known these girls since they were little. They're all great friends. There's nothing better than when you have the whole town rooting for both teams. I can guarantee you even though they are disappointed, they'll be the loudest ones cheering for them. That's what Suffield is all about, boys, girls, travel. We definitely are a soccer town and this is a great weekend for Suffield."
There weren't a lot of travel teams when David was young. He started playing soccer at age 11 or 12, playing for the Granby Rovers. Suffield just had a town team, he said, intramural stuff. Sean would start much younger, 2 or 3. He has been on the Suffield sidelines since he was little.
"With the training, the skill level, he's a far better play than I was technically," said Dave, who has coached the Suffield girls for 16 years after coaching the boys for four. "All these kids are, half the girls are."
Consolini knows Jenna Bike and Sami Grasso, the two St. Joseph stars. They play for the same club program, CFC United. Grasso is Consolini's teammate. Bike is two years younger, but make no mistake, the sophomore is one terrific soccer player. Consolini obviously has known Sean Sullivan much, much longer.
"Since we were little, like kindergarten," Consolini said. "We played park and rec, you had mixed between the boys and girls. I've also known Coach since I was little. It's pretty awesome to be in the same grade and to have shared the same experiences. It has been awesome to share celebrations."
"Sean always has been a bundle of energy. But he's also probably the most humble kid you'd want to meet. He doesn't rub it in anybody's face that he scored all those goals or anything like that. He's a sweet, down-to-earth kid. He could not be more respectful and I think that's why he deserves so much respect."
Sean has narrowed his college choices to Brandeis, Hartford and Bentley. Consolini, Suffield's prime defender, will play for Quinnipiac.
"Jill has been a good friend, throughout my life," Sean said. "It's a shame. I wish she could have won today. Every senior wants to win the last one. As heartbreaking as it is for them, it's a great act by them to stay."
The girls might have been an emotional mess on the sideline afterward, but, man, they were kind of a mess on the field in the first half. The Wildcats fell behind 2-0, and it could have been 4-0.
"The first half we gave too much respect to Sami and Jenna, which you have to, but instead of keeping it tight, they were giving them space," Dave said. "We had worked on it, but they kind of forgot it."
"We were dejected at halftime. We were defeated. I'd never seen them like that, especially with this group for four years. I told them if you feel like this you're going to regret it. It was dead quiet. I told them if you want me to yell, I'll yell. If you want me to be your best friend, I'll be your best friend. I told them if you play the way you did the first half, you're going to be upset no matter what the outcome is. If you come out and play Suffield soccer, you can hold your head up high. They did the last 25 minutes."
Consolini, a senior captain, said you should have heard Sullivan at halftime.
"He pulled us together and said, 'You guys have to keep your heads up. You have to believe in yourself,'" Consolini said. "He could not have been more supportive. He's always there to give us that one extra push we need. Throughout my whole four years in high school, he's someone I look up to more than anyone else."
"I wished we had played them harder in the first half to stop them, because I think it would have been a totally different game. But we kept going and going, got that one goal. I only wish we had a couple more minutes."
Brittany Champagne scored with 9:42 to cut the St. Joseph lead in half. The Wildcats pressed. There would be no tying goal. Dave Sullivan would have loved to have a couple more minutes, too.
"They came together," he said. "I'm extremely proud of them. Once we went to LL [this season], I can guarantee you nobody thought we'd be here other than ourselves. This definitely is the two best teams in the state in all classes."
They would come together on more time on the sidelines. Hugs. Tears. Heartache. Pride. Sullivan had one more question.
"Coach came up to us, 'Do you want to stay?' We said, 'We want to stay.' We want to support our team. We hope they beat Ellington. We want to bring home one state championship."
And so there they were three hours later, hanging on the fence at Falcon Field, hooting, hollering, as the boys carried the championship trophy above their heads. Yes, they'd be bringing another state title home to Suffield.