MERIDEN — State glory eluded our area boys soccer teams this fall. State recognition, however, did not.
While the latter stages of the CIAC tournament transpired without the locals (unless they bought a ticket), accolades followed shortly thereafter.
That took some sting out of a season that saw our seven teams go a collective 46-64-9.
Hey, some years you make a Cinderella run to the state finals. Some years, you’re quickly escorted out of the ball.
We did have four All-State kids, though. And we did have the MVP of the Senior Bowl.
We had 15 All-Conference kids. And we had the guy deemed Player of the Year by the Greater New Haven Soccer Officials Association.
For our 2019 All-Record-Journal Boys Soccer Team, we settled on a dandy dozen. There are only three repeats from last year, so there are a lot of new faces.
A lot of goal-scorers, too. This group strummed the strings a combined 86 times this fall. One of those goals found the back of the net, on the fly, from 65 yards out.
Who scored it? Read on.Meriden
The Silver City featured two All-State players this year and two underclassmen who will be the cornerstones of their clubs next year.
Actually, they already are. Please welcome to the All-RJ fold Platt junior Elian Nava and Maloney junior Sanford “Ivan” Bruce.
We liked Nava for the way he could take command of a game, much like he did in this year’s first Platt-Maloney rivalry match.
Nava was truly indispensible to the Panthers. They scored 11 goals on a 1-15 season. Nava scored eight of them and assisted on the other three.
At season’s end, Nava was named All-Conference in the CCC South.
So was Bruce, who as sweeper was at the heart of the Maloney defense.
It was a new position for Bruce. Add it to the collection. In his three years with the Spartans, he’s played forward, midfield, stopper and sweeper.
Maloney coach Dave Parness has no qualms asking Bruce to take on the new roles.
“He is one of the most cerebral players I have ever coached,” Parness said. “He is not the fastest or strongest guy, but always is smart enough to put himself in a position to make the right play.
“Sanford Bruce is your ideal kid to coach,” Parness added. “He shows up every day smiling and ready to go. His positive attitude is the first thing that jumps out at you. He does whatever is asked of him.”
One last note on Bruce: You may have noticed he appears to have two first names. “Sanford” is the real one. “Ivan” is the nickname. It’s because he’s the fourth Sanford Bruce, as in IV.
You learn something every day.
Likewise, you may not have known Meriden was home to two All-State soccer players in 2019. Both were All-State Class LL: Wilcox Tech senior Giovanny Solis and Maloney senior Zechariah Smith.
Solis followed in the footsteps of former Wilcox teammate Kelvin Cortez, who was All-State last year. Solis also followed Cortez as the Tribe’s leading scorer. He delivered 15 goals and eight assists for the 11-6-1 Indians.
As for Smith, he led the 7-10-1 Spartans with 13 goals. And it’s not like he caught opposing defenses by surprise. Many of Smith’s goals came amid double-coverage or after beating multiple defenders to get to the net.
Smith was invited to the Senior Bowl and came away as the MVP.
“Zechariah Smith is a dynamic game-changer,” Parness remarked. “He is one of the few high school players that you have to know where he is at all times on the field. Zech has that ability to tap into that ‘next gear’ that not many players can.”
Smith and Bruce were joined on the All-Conference team by junior goalkeeper Devin Juan who garners All-RJ Honorable Mention.Wallingford
Our All-RJ selections from Wallingford feature elite players from each level of the field: Lyman Hall forward Declan Turbett, Sheehan midfielder Matthew Marquis and Sheehan defenseman Tyler Jasinski.
Turbett, already a team captain as a junior, scored 15 goals for the 4-11-1 Trojans, a young team with a very demanding schedule. Turbett’s 15 goals tied him for the area lead with Solis of Wilcox Tech.
Turbett was ultimately named to the All-SCC First Team. Two of his teammates, senior midfielder Luca Sensini and junior defenseman Riley Stone, were All-SCC Second Team. Both are RJ Honorable Mention.
Meanwhile, across town, Jasinki and Marquis wrapped up standout careers at Sheehan. Both returned to the All-Record-Journal team and were named All-SCC — Jasinski to the First Team, Marquis to the Second Team.
Jasinski was also an All-State Class M selection.
In combination, Marquis and Jasinski led the Titans to a 9-6-2 season that ended in the first round of the Class M state tournament. Marquis manned the center-midfield, while Jasinski was the center-defender, though on occasion he’d be brought up to the midfield if needed there.
Marquis finished with nine career goals and 13 careers assists. Jasinski, who is looking to continue his career at Division III Mount Union in Ohio, had 11 career goals and three career assists.Cheshire
At 11-6-1, Cheshire shared the area’s best boys soccer record with Wilcox Tech.
But, man, what an 11-6-1. During the first half of the season, the Rams were ranked in the Class LL/L state coaches poll. They scored a victory over eventual SCC Touranment champ Guiford and forged a scoreless draw with Daniel Hand, which would go on to win its third straight Class L state title.
Guilford and Hand would later beat Cheshire. So would Xavier — three times, including on penalty kicks in the SCC quarterfinals. Cheshire’s season ended in the second round of the Class LL state tournament to eventual champ and overall state No. 1 Hall of West Hartford.
Add it up and that’s how a team that scored 40 goals in the regular season while allowing just 11 went “only” 11-6-1.
The backbone of that 11-goal defense was junior goalkeeper Matt Pisani. He posted seven shutouts, was named All-SCC Second Team and is the R-J’s man in net.
The play-makers on offense were All-SCC First-Teamers Jack Loura and Denys Fuentes, who join Pisani on the All-RJ squad.
Loura notched a team-high 12 goals while assisting on five others. Fuentes factored in with nine goals and six assists.
Loura was particularly impressive to the Greater New Haven Soccer Officials Association. The group voted him its Male Player of the Year.
Loura was also named All-State Class L and invited to play in the 2019 Senior Bowl.
Before we take our leave of Cheshire, let us point out the contributions of Thomas Bonitz. The senior was named All-SCC Second Team and joined Loura at the Senior Bowl. Bonitz is an All-RJ Honorable Mention and was also his team’s RJ Scholar-Athlete.Southington
That 65-yard goal we mentioned earlier? The one that went in on the fly?
It was delivered by this guy: Southington senior captain Joe Tellerico. It came on a direct kick, found the upper corner and earned the Blue Knights a 1-1 tie with Conard.
It was a definite highlight in a 3-10-3 season that was the product of not a weak Southington team, but strong opposition in the CCC. Of the 13 teams the Blue Knights faced this year, 10 went to the postseason, including four of the top seven seeds in Class LL. Southington twice played Class LL champion 1 Hall.
And yet the Blue Knights hung tight this season, according to Southington coach Dave Yanosy, who attributed the cohesion to the leadership of Tellerico and fellow senior captains Sam Miranda and Chris Chaplinsky.
Tellerico was the team’s scoring leader with five goals and two assists. He was the lone Blue Knight named All-Conference.
“Joe just had a great career; he really turned himself into a real good soccer player,” Yanosy remarked. “More than that, the leadership he provided as a senior captain made it a real enjoyable year.”
Joining Tellerico on the All-RJ Team is fellow senior Marek Kryzanski. A third-year varsity player, Kryzanski was the team’s most skilled and technical player. Able to play anywhere on the field, he was used mostly up top at forward this fall.
Yanosy termed Kryzanski the team’s “unsung hero.”
“A lot of the work that he did, especially in that middle area, probably went unnoticed from a stastical standpoint,” said Yanosy. “From a teammate’s standpoint and a coaching standpoint, it was really easy to see the value he had.”
We saw the value. We saw the value in all 12 of these players. They helped make this season another one for the books.