Silver plaques for runnerup finishes in both the state class 'LL' tournament and the South-West Conference playoffs would be the envy of nearly any team in this region.

Yet coach James Tong's New Milford High School boys' soccer side is not just any team.

Hence, in the wake of Saturday's 4-0 whitewashing at the hands of Westport Staples in the state 'LL' title match in Ridgefield, the Green Wave closed the book in bittersweet fashion this week on a 2009 campaign that, by most standards, would be remarkable.

Coach Tong and Co. built a 20-4 record, in the process outscoring its opponents by a cumulative 86-20 margin. On the heels of last autumn's 14-2-4 ledger, the kickers' gaudy season reinforced their stature as one of Connecticut's best sides.

Still, the Green Wave fell short when it needed it most... in attempting to bring home NMHS' first boys' soccer title of any kind, the 2009 juggernaut instead etched a legacy as arguably the best team in the program's nearly 40-year history and one that will be remembered for coming ever so close.

Seeded first in the South-West Conference playoffs earlier this month, the Green Wave dispatched Bunnell, 4-0, and New Fairfield, 4-1, to reach the SWC title match. Then, on a rainy night in Redding, coach Tong's kick crew battled arch-rival Brookfield scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods before bowing in penalty kicks to the Bobcats.

To its credit, the Green Wave put its SWC disappointment behind it with aplomb, cruising with style as the sixth seed past state 'LL' foes 27th-seeded Stamford, 3-0, 11th-seeded Greenwich, 3-0, and 10th-seeded Shelton, 3-0, to gain a state semifinal berth.

The New Milford squad then achieved an emotional high Nov. 17 in West Haven in the Round of Four by rallying past perennial power Guilford, the tournament's second seed, 4-2.

The stage was thus set for the Green Wave to claim it all Saturday at Tiger Hollow on the campus of Ridgefield High, but the tournament-savvy and streetwise Wreckers of Staples hustled, clawed and worked their way to two goals in the first seven minutes of action and added two more at the outset of the second half to remove all doubt about who'd claim the state 'LL' championship.

"They are a great team and deserved to win, " recounted coach Tong. "That's what big games come down to..."

The state title was the 12th in Westport Staples' pitch history, seven of which were achieved in the 1960s and '70s during the legendary tenure of coach Albie Loeffler who, ironically, died Sept. 6 at the age of 93.

New Milford High's trophy case will meanwhile proudly house two silver plaques courtesy of the 2009 Green Wave.

That achievement is a worthy testament to the skills and teamwork of NMHS seniors Miguel Carneiro, Matt Donovan, Jack Holub, Diego Mendonca, Nick Murad, Russell Parker, John Rettenmeier, Cody Scott, Zane Swanson, Fabricio Viana, Isaac Baker, Jesse Brennan, Dan Nichols and Merritt Schneider.

"The boys played well all season and got to two finals. To lose them both is just demoralizing," reflected the third-year Green Wave mentor. "We worked hard all year and played well all year. It is just so frustrating to end this way."

Thus, for the Green Wave's returning booters and for coach Tong, it is left the task of bring home the gold.