NOTEBOOK: Suffield boys soccer perfect

There were certainly high expectations for the Suffield Wildcats boys soccer team entering the season. That comes with the territory when your program has won back-to-back Class M titles. However, it’s fair to say that no one expected them to be this good. Suffield is 11-0 and has completely dominated opponents, outscoring them 48-4. In addition to leading the NCCC, the Wildcats hold the top spot in the Class M rankings alongside Waterford. They are one of four Connecticut teams to have a perfect record.
Suffield was a little concerned about its depth coming into the season, but it has instead arguably been the team’s biggest strength.
“We are blessed with a ton of talent throughout our roster,” head coach Mark Beigel said. “It has allowed us to wear down opponents in each game. Talent, coupled with our unity and chemistry, has allowed our guys to play at this level.”
The Wildcats have seven shutouts and have not allowed more than one goal in a game. The defense features athletic senior Colin McFarlane, senior Tom Gaffney and junior Jack Lydon. Beigel described Gaffney and Lydon as aggressive and willing to do anything to stop the ball. When opponents get past this trio, they have to contend with senior goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse, a three-year starter.
Suffield’s offense is similarly versatile and deep. And it features an elite scorer in senior Sean Sullivan.
“Sean has improved his speed and scoring ability,” Beigel stated. “He is extremely confident, and a can make a defense pay with just one little opportunity.’
The Wildcats have defeated a number of strong teams during their undefeated start, including Ellington, Avon, Somers and Bolton in its most recent contest.
Suffield is looking to improve its patience and discipline in its remaining regular season games.
Beigel shied away from discussing his team’s chances at getting a championship three-peat. He did say that his players recognize they have a good opportunity to earn a title, but are focused on staying humble and taking one game at a time.

Somers
The Spartans have weathered injuries and a challenging conference to start 7-3, good for fourth in the NCCC. The team has cooled off since a 5-0 start, during which they outscored opponents 22-6.
Head coach Rick Kelley said that the Spartans have struggled to overcome recent injuries, particularly the one to midfielder Nick Murdza. Somers offense relies on Murdza to generate scoring opportunities, and Kelley stated that it has lacked flow without him. Sophomore John Poitras, junior Mike Ryan and senior Matt Kopec have also missed time.
When healthy, Somers has featured a very balanced offense. Seniors Brian Rossini, Austin Ficara and Brandon Scanlon have been the most consistent goal scorers.
The Spartans signature victory was a 3-2 triumph at Avon on Oct. 3, just one of the Falcons two losses. They trailed early in the game.
Murdza is expected to return on Oct. 15 at Enfield. Kelley is confident that his return will provide a huge spark to the offense and especially Rossini.
“This team is better when the two of them are working together,” Kelley stated. “Nick and Brian make one another better. They have a bond that’s very organic.”
Somers is hoping to obtain a few more wins and earn a high seed in the Class S tournament. It fell to Bloomfield in last season’s championship game. Kelley made it clear that the Spartans must follow a simple formula to end the regular season with momentum.
“Each player must compete with maximum effort, and they need to play as a cohesive unit,” he stated. “When we’re at our best, we have unbelievable potential.’

Windsor Locks
The veteran Raiders are 5-4-2 and in the middle of the pack in the NCCC. According to head coach Dan Eckert, they have consistently improved over the course of the season on both ends.
Eckert stated that this is the best defense Windsor Locks has featured in a long time. The athletic and aggressive Raiders have been led by star juniors Reed Lynch and Ryan Wilson. The team had not allowed more than three goals until an 8-0 loss to Avon on Oct. 11.
Windsor Lock’s offense has been defined by its depth, as nine different players have scored. Junior Mike Smalley has been the top offensive contributor.
The Raiders should qualify for the Class S tournament. If they do, they will look to win a game or two after falling in the first round last season.
“We are definitely capable of playing well in states, but to do so, we need to avoid making costly mistakes and become more cohesive,” said Eckert.

Stafford
The Bulldogs have played one low-scoring game after another. The combination of a poor offense and an excellent defense has left them with a record of 2-3-5 and in the bottom half of the NCCC. Stafford’s last win came nearly a month ago at East Windsor, though they have come close a number of times since. Four of its last five games have been ties.
The Bulldogs have been unable to score more than one goal in a game and have just five total. Before the season started, head coach Rob Schadt stated that he was hoping to receive three or four goals from roughly five players.
“Our offense has been a sticking point all season,” Schadt said. “Not having one or two pure scorers has been a big problem for us. So far, each of the lineups we’ve tried have been pretty interchangeable and failed to be aggressive.”

East Windsor
The Panthers have demonstrated significant improvement from last season, in which they went 2-13-1. They     have won three out of five and are now 4-6-1, good for middle of the pack in the NCCC. East Windsor has a solid shot at qualifying for the Class S tournament, which it has not reached in nearly a decade.
Head coach Mike Mosher has been pleased with the offense’s development. Seniors Kevin Mocadlo and Adam Fisher have demonstrated the ability to score, and Jack Pelley has made a significant impact as a freshman.
East Windsor’s top performance so far was its 3-0 victory at Canton on Sept. 23. Mosher stated that his offense looked tenacious and aggressive and that senior Bryan Perron was excellent in goal.
Mosher is concerned about the Panthers confidence. Despite their steady improvement, he said that his players currently lack a winning attitude. Mosher chalked some of this up to the program’s poor record during recent seasons.
“There’s still a lot of negativity surrounding the guys,” Mosher said. “I keep telling them to loosen up have more fun out on the field. We’ll be a better team if they do.”
Mosher is confident that East Windsor will play well enough to qualify for states. If they do, it would be a tremendous boost for the program and school.
“Making the tournament would go a long way towards erasing the losing mentality here and bring more confidence to the players and community,” he proclaimed. “Our attendance and popularity would certainly increase.”

Fermi
The Falcons have improved tremendously after a 0-5-1 start and now find themselves 3-7-1 and with a strong shot at qualifying for the Class L tournament. This improvement is the result of the learning experiences the young Falcons have obtained over the course of the season.
“Our season has been all about learning to compete and play as one,” head coach Jim Russell said. “We came into the season with 18 new players, so we’ve had to take a lot of baby steps. It’s hard to win with that much youth.  Right now, we’re playing a lot better and with more consistency. Our guys are finally learning how to win.”
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Fermi’s biggest improvements have come on the defensive end. The defense has developed discipline and confidence and kept the team in games even when the offense has struggled. Russell gave sophomore goalkeeper Matt Evans a ton of credit for the defense’s growth.
Russell described the offense as very inconsistent, pointing to the Falcons four 1-0 losses as proof. Senior Zack Isabelle, junior Alex Brown and sophomore Jabari Smith have each led the way on offense at different times.

Enfield
The Raiders are a disappointing 2-8-1and twelfth in the NCCC. The team has struggled to overcome injuries to a number of key players, including seniors Michael Casey (midfielder/forward) and Andrew Halgas (defenseman).
“Injuries have played a huge part in our losses,” said head coach John Mancuso. “We’ve had to scramble for bodies constantly, and that’s tough to overcome when the NCCC is so competitive.”
Enfield’s offense has been unable to establish any rhythm in the defensive-minded NCCC.
Mancuso said that junior Anthony Romei has been its only reliable scorer, and that many of the combinations he has tried have been unsuccessful. These shortcomings have placed heavy pressure on the Raiders defense, which has played well overall but been unable to completely shut down opponents.
Six of Enfield’s losses have come by one goal.

Tolland

The Tolland Eagles boys soccer team has built on last season’s state tournament run by emerging as one of the top squads in the CCC. They are 8-2-1 overall and 6-2-1 in the CCC East. Along the way, Tolland has demonstrated that it can win close games.
The Eagles have relied on their balance and depth to win four games by one goal. For head coach Jim Leahy, these wins exemplify his team’s defining trait.
“Our biggest strength can be summed up in one word: resolve,” he said. “This team just keeps competing and playing its hardest no matter what. Every close win has given the guys a confidence boost and brought them closer together. Because of this, we’re at the point where this team is playing the best soccer I’ve seen around her in a long time.”
On offense, Tolland has relied upon the dynamic duo of midfielder Tyson Bridge and forward Alex Weekes. The pair, both seniors, are the Eagles top scorers, and the constant pressure they put on defenders helps open up scoring opportunities for teammates. Junior Zac Parracino has benefited from their presence this season and become a third reliable scoring option.
On defense, Tolland has gelled quickly, becoming a unit no team wants to face. The defense has earned four shutouts overall and three in the past five games. Leahy stated that his defense possesses great chemistry.
The one area of concern for the Eagles has been their inconsistency on offense. Leahy said that this inconsistency could disappear if Tolland does a better job of maintaining focus and composure near the goal.
“We expect to make a run in the Class M playoffs,” Leahy stated. “If we continue to improve, than we can beat anyone. These guys are hungry to prove themselves. We’ve gone on to the quarterfinals three of the past five seasons, and they want to maintain that success.”

Ellington
Coming into the season, head coach Roy Gurnon was hopeful that his young team could mature quickly and develop chemistry with one another. So far, the Knights have largely fulfilled their coach’s hopes. Ellington is 7-3-1 and in the top half of the NCCC. It won four games in a row, all by shutout, before a 1-1 tie with Stafford on the October 11.
The Knights defense has slowly but surely evolved into one of the area’s top units, and has allowed just 10 goals. Gurnon stated that he’s impressed by how consistent and focused Ellington’s defense has become.
At the same time, the Knights offense, led by junior James Costanzo, has become more efficient.
“Our offense has been able to generate better scoring opportunities recently”, Gurnon said. “We’ve worked on being more patient near the goal and placing the ball better, and it’s beginning to pay off.”
Ellington was firing on all cylinders in its 1-0 victory at Somers on Oct. 8, which Gurnon called its best win of the season. The Knights looked strong defensively, and managed to generate Costanzo’s decisive goal against a formidable Somers defense.
As pleased as Gurnon is with the growth his players have displayed, he stated that they still have a lot to learn.
“Our players have to understand their roles a lot better,” he said. “They must become a cohesive unit in practice. We can’t be looking for the right combination come game time, especially during the state playoffs.”

South Windsor
The young Bobcats are 3-7-2 and have won just once since the first week of the season.
South Windsor’s offense has frequently struggled and already been shut out five times. Head coach Dave. St. Jean said that his players have done a solid job of setting up scoring opportunities but are failing to capitalize on them. He then stated that he expects the offense to improve as players get more comfortable working with one another. The Bobcats defense has played very well, allowing just 16 goals. St. Jean praised senior defenseman Noah Kennedy for the leadership and intensity he has provided.
St. Jean is mostly pleased with his team’s performance so far despite its win-loss record, and is especially happy with the improvement and competitiveness his players have displayed as the season has gone along. He is confident that South Windsor can still earn a state tournament berth.
“The players are gaining a better understanding of strategy and how to execute,” St Jean said. “If we continue our recent level of play and get the offense going a little bit, I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble qualifying for states.”

Rockville
Coming into the season, the Rams were hoping to make big strides after last season’s 0-16 campaign and possibly obtain a playoff berth. Even though the victories have not come for 1-11 Rockville, first-year head coach Nick Cody believes his players have improved tremendously from the start of the season.
“I’ve been seeing improvements across the board,” said Cody. “We’ve become much better at understanding where to position ourselves on the field on both ends and how to execute strategy. And the competitiveness has been there from the beginning. A lot of our struggles can be chalked up to lack of experience. We’re facing programs who have kids playing year-round, and none of our players do this.”
Junior midfielder Shaun Monaghan has led the way on offense. Cody believes that he has a promising crop of midfielders and forwards who will heavily benefit from the experience they are receiving.
The Rams improvement can be seen in their performances against Bloomfield. Rockville struggled mightily at Bloomfield on September 13, losing 9-2, but later gave 6-4-1 Bloomfield a tough fight at home on the 7th before losing 4-2.
“We played great against Bloomfield and were competitive throughout,” Cody proclaimed. “I was very pleased with our execution and the confidence our guys showed.”
“Going forward, I think we’ll be much more competitive against teams the second time. If we continue to grow, the wins will come.”

Avon

The Avon Falcons boys soccer team has not lost a step this season despite graduating seven starters from last season’s Class L runners-up. They are 9-2 and have frequently dominated opponents on both ends of the field, winning five games by a score of 8-0. Avon is second in the NCCC behind Suffield and is currently ranked sixth in Class L.
The Falcons are currently playing their best soccer of the season. They have won three consecutive games by scores of 8-0 over SMSA, Bolton and Windsor Locks. The rout at Bolton on Oct. 8 was a particular highlight, as they handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
“Beating Bolton was big for us because it was the first time we put together a complete game against a really good team,” said Avon head coach David Zlatin. “Our effort was great and we were strong across the board.”
The Falcons are averaging nearly five goals a game. Senior Bobby Zaino, who Zlatin said is having a terrific season, has emerged as their most dangerous offensive player. He has been able to take pressure off of Riley Strassner, who has only improved as a sophomore. Seniors Liam Stensen and Sean Janson have also made significant contributions on offense.
The defense has been every bit as good as the offense, allowing just six goals. Junior Stephen Dorney has been the unit’s leader.
Avon’s two losses came at undefeated Suffield and at home against Somers.
The Falcons are trying to improve their focus as they enter the home stretch of the regular season. Ultimately, the team’s goal is to return to the Class L title game and come out on top this time around.
“We absolutely can win the state championship,” Zlatin proclaimed. “The talent and motivation we need is there.”

Farmington
The 9-2-1 Indians, who captured the Class L title last season, are again in position to make a run at the top prize. They are leading the CCC West with a record, and are currently ranked eighth in the class.
Farmington’s offense was considered its biggest strength entering the season, but it is the defense which has carried the team at times. Many of the Indian defenders lacked significant experience before this season, but they were able to overcome this obstacle and quickly become a cohesive and disciplined group. Farmington has allowed just five goals and has eight shutouts. Head coach Steve Waters said that the defense’s biggest strength is its depth and praised each of his starters for their performances.
The Indians offense has been somewhat inconsistent and failed to score in their loss at New Britain and ties with Simsbury and Newington. Farmington entered the season having returned a majority of its starting offense.
“Our offense can do a better job of moving the ball and attacking the goal,” Waters stated. “We’re missing more than we should. We’re really going to focus on being more efficient there during these last few games.”
The Indians signature victory is their 2-1 overtime triumph against Glastonbury on Oct. 4. Senior forward Colin Cheesman scored the decisive goal on a rebound with 3:20 remaining in the second overtime. This is the Tomahawks only loss to date.
“That game was so much fun to experience,” Waters exclaimed. “Our passion and focus was excellent and every player made a contribution. It means a lot to beat a team like Glastonbury.”
Farmington remaining schedule is challenging and features contests against Conard (9-2-1) and New Britain (7-1-2). Waters wants his team to be playing at peak level by the end of the regular season. Ultimately, the team’s goal is the same as it is every year: to win the Class L title.

Canton
The Warriors rebounded from a six-game losing streak by defeating Stafford and Enfield on Oct. 8 and 10 by scores of 1-0 and 2-1.  The wins brought Canton’s overall record to 4-7. Head coach Bill Phelps said that his team’s struggles can be attributed to its inexperience. The Warriors graduated 12 players from last season’s 11-8 squad.
“When we’ve lost, it’s been because of our lack of maturity and tendency to make costly mistakes,” Phelps stated. “During our losing streak, that’s what you were seeing from us.”
Phelps believes that his team has matured significantly recently, as evidenced by their on-field performance. He then stated that the defense has especially improved. Seniors Lucas Rich and Justin Fortier have served as its leaders.
The Warriors will benefit heavily from the return of a few key players from injury. Sophomore Rieley Hoffman and senior Nate Hanson made their returns at Stafford and provided an immediate lift. Junior Tanner Clarke will also return within the next few games.
“The key to success going forward is for our players remaining confident and loose,” Phelps proclaimed. “We’re starting to play that way.”

Simsbury
The Trojans have not lived up to expectations, to say the least. Despite returning 12 starters from a team that went 12-5-1 and advanced to the second round of the Class LL tournament, Simsbury is just 3-4-5  after a 2-0 start.
“Our entire team is disappointed in our performance,” head coach Ed Lynch said. “The effort has been there, but we’ve underperformed as a group. The CCC West is an extremely tough league, but we absolutely should have a better record.”
The Trojans lack of offense has been very surprising. It was expected to be potent, but has instead been either shut out or held to one goal in nine games. Lynch is flummoxed by these struggles.
“We just haven’t been able to find the back of the net,” he stated. “We’ve been working on our distribution skills in practice and tried different approaches in games, but it hasn’t translated to goals yet. I’m not sure what more we can do.”
Lynch gave the defense a ton of credit for its ability to limit scoring opportunities. It has allowed just 13 goals and recorded four shutouts. Seniors Mason Burr and Keegan Rice, who normally play on offense, have regularly been used on defense and were instrumental to its improvement. Lynch and the Trojans are confident that they can go on a late-season run to qualify for states, and believe that the team’s defense gives them the opportunity to make some noise once they get there. For now, Lynch is mostly hoping that his team will continue to give maximum effort against its remaining opponents. Anything less, and Simsbury may just not be able to survive in its rugged conference.

Glastonbury

The Tomahawks have a ton of talent, as evidenced by record of 10-1-1. But even more than their talent, the secrets to their success have been work ethic and chemistry.
“Our work ethic and ability to communicate with one another has been outstanding,” head coach Mark Landers said. “The players are completely committed both to one another and to being a great team.”
Glastonbury is leading the CCC East and is second only to Greenwich in the Class L standings. The team is averaging nearly five goals per game and has seven shutouts. The trio of Tyler Peterson, Patrick King and goalkeeper Chase Conway has again anchored the defense.
“Our defense is doing an excellent job of keeping the ball out of the box and limiting players to long-range shots,” Landers stated.
Seven players have scored four or more goals for the Tomahawks. Senior midfielder/forward Evan Hassett leads the team with eight goals, and fellow senior midfielder Gustavo Firnhaber has seven.
Glastonbury recently lost senior midfielder Evan Grenus to injury, and Landers is still not sure how many games he will miss. Grenus recorded six goals and 12 points this season.
“Evan brings a lot of leadership and skill to the field, and not having him is going to be tough,” Landers proclaimed. “We need to respond by buying into the system and being even more aggressive on offense. Our guys can’t sit back and be unprepared.”
The Tomahawks are trying to concentrate on their final few regular season games and not look too far ahead. That being said, Landers acknowledge that his squad can contend for a state title.
“We definitely have the depth and talent to win states,” Landers said. “Whether we do is a matter of us playing together and with consistency on both ends. These next few weeks are going to be an exciting time in our journey.”

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