MERIDEN — The anchor has been raised.
And for soccer players in that boat of Connecticut high school sports playing this fall after the winter postseason, entire spring season and tackle football were cancelled, that in itself is victory no matter what port (or reef) this 2020 voyage comes to rest.
It’s a season that won’t be measured so much in wins and losses, but games played.
Some big ones are already in the books. Sheehan and Lyman Hall played their first round of rivalry games on Friday night. The Platt and Maloney boys went head to head on Saturday (see related story).
Some big ones lay ahead, especially if we make it through October to the “postseason experience” of November.
There is a common theme on the pitch. Given the abbreviated season and the likely absence of a state tournament, area soccer teams are building for next year while making sure they send their seniors out right.
“I think that is exactly what it is,” said Maloney boys coach Dave Parness. “We need the seniors to keep pushing the underclassmen so that they adhere to the bar that has been set by the last few classes that have graduated. We can't afford to take a step back as a program based on the situation. We need to still get better this season and let that carry over to next season.”
So trim the sails. Here’s the view from the bridge on this bridge of a season.Platt
The concept of a “bridge” season truly applies to the Platt girls, who are playing a sub-varsity schedule this year.
Tim Redican’s boys team, meanwhile, has gotten out of the gate with a 5-0 win over Bulkeley in a regional Central Connecticut Conference pod that also includes Wethersfield, Middletown, Rocky Hill, Newington, Berlin and Maloney.
The Panthers have a solid squad, one with experience, starting with All-Conference senior forward Elian Nava, last year’s leading scorer.
The entire defense returns: senior backs Michal Urban, Derek Campoverde, Anthony Buscemi and senior goaltender Josiah McLeish. Junior Xavier Febles is another returning starter on the defensive end.
Junior Casey Rintharamy is the linchpin in the midfield with seniors Jason Betun and Ever Aleman. Rintharamy had two goals in the season-opening victory over Bullkeley.
On offense, Nava should be aided by the arrival of freshmen Ben Suzio and Alex Rocha. Both rookies scored against Bulkeley.
“They really are a good group of dudes and I hope they have a (full) season,” Redican said of his team. “The past few weeks and over the summer many of them have been working hard to get better and pushing each other.
“Many of the seniors have had it in their minds to turn this thing around for Platt soccer,” Redican added. “I really thought if we were going to break the streak of (not) making the tournament this would be the year under normal circumstances.”Maloney
The Spartans play in the same CCC pod with Platt. The Maloney boys had the tough draw of opening against Wethersfield, considered the best of the brood. (The Eagles beat Maloney 2-0.)
The Parness Pack is two seasons removed from the Class LL runner-up year of 2018, yet still has the same goaltender, All-Conference senior Devin Juan, a starter since his freshman year.
Another cornerstone is defender/center midfielder Sanford “Ivan” Bruce. He was All-Conference last year as a junior.
Junior Dannys Blandon is also a key piece in the puzzle at center-mid, but he was plagued by a preseason injury and his services are uncertain.
That’s a tough blow. The Spartans already have to replace the playmaking wizardry of Zechariah Smith, the 2019 Senior Bowl MVP and Record-Journal Player of the Year.
Senior forward Solomon Owusu and sophomore forward/outside midfielder Dylan Miller will be asked to be the new catalysts on offense.
On the girls side, Maloney continues to evolve into a solid program, one reaping the grassroot benefits of the Meriden Soccer Club. Three games apiece against the likes of Wethersfield and Berlin this fall will provide a strong measure of growth.
The Spartans return All-Conference players in senior goalie Abby Lespier and junior forward Mackenzie McCormack. Lespier allowed 17 goals over 16 games last year. McCormack was the leading scorer with 10 goals and six assists.
Senior captains Sylvia Lavin, Emma Szymaszek, Haley Lespier and Abby Lespier guide the S.S. Spartan. The underclassmen crew is also highly regarded.
“Our sophomore class is loaded with talent and we have some freshmen that will definitely see quality minutes,” said coach Eoin McClure. “Our team is progressing nicely. The girls are working very hard and we are starting to gel.”Wilcox Tech
The Indians turn a chapter with Clinton Tebbetts replacing Joe Testa as coach of the boys program. It’s the first high school post for Tebbetts, who hails from the club ranks.
For the girls, Chuck Ubaldi is now in his second season and his squad is off to a 2-0 start.
A pair of freshmen are leading the way on offense. Angela Zandri and Katherine Arichavala scored four goals apiece in wins over Prince Tech and Goodwin Tech.
Zandri and Arichavala take their spots alongside returning seniors Alexa Sanchez, Mylin Bennett, Morgan Herzman Melani Medina and Luisa Avila.
Juniors Natalie Strout and Perla Diaz are also returning starters. Senior goalie Melissa Hernandez is back in net.
“Our student -athletes are excited about the season,” Ubaldi said. “They have worked hard during the conditioning period and are looking forward to competing against regional opponents with desire, dedication and respect for all involved.”Lyman Hall
Both Trojan teams are looking to bounce back after opening the season Friday night with losses to rival Sheehan.
Boys coach Arnie Jandreau got some strong play in his team’s 1-0 defeat from juniors Yahya Kardad, Edwin Lopez and Blake Gibertoni as well as sophomore Morgan Stone.
This is a team, though, that is senior-driven. There are 10 in all, led by captains Declan Turbett and Riley Stone, both returning All-SCC selections.
Turbett is in the vanguard of the attack with Morgan Stone and senior Driss Zaim-Sassi.
Riley Stone is a defensive anchor in front of senior goalie Dan Beverage. Stone is joined on the back line by seniors Yassine Zaim-Sassi, Alex Krysteli, Niko Cymbala and Manny Ramirez.
Seniors Brendan McEvoy and Mauricio Zeas Cabrera patrol the midfield alongside the juniors Kardad and Gibertoni.
Tony Crane’s girls team is led by senior captains Grace Gagliardi and Marissa Guidet.
Junior midfielder Shianna Reeves looked good in Friday’s opener. Juniors Sydney Raffles and sophomores Callie Casulla and Kelsey Newman are also key pieces of a squad that, low on numbers, must be big on heart and smarts.
“The team goals are to play smart soccer, not kick and run,” said Crane. “We will try to be competitive and never give up.”Sheehan
The Titans lost cornerstones from both sides of the ball, veterans like Olivia Dubuc, Tyler Jasinski and Matthew Marquis.
The trio was part of a rather large graduation wave on Hope Hill. Both bid farewell to nine players.
Yet hopes remain high at Sheehan, because here comes the next wave, washing through the program.
Coach Lou Rodriguez’s boys team rode a goal by Yousif Said, the goaltending of Frankie Carbone and a defense anchored by Luke Festa to Friday’s season-opening win over LH.
Fellow seniors Andrew Carey, Jibran Ahmed and Simon Koepfer are also back, joined by juniors Connor Duffey, Kalen Boman and Jaiden Kapoor, and sophomore Vincent Carbone.
Sophomore Kieran Liu and incoming freshmen Nico Cardona, Oliver Brown, Talan Burr, Reynaldo Sanchez and Ronan Liu are the rising players to watch.
“We are a young team, replacing nine starters from last year,” Rodriguez remarked. “I believe our returning players and some of our new add-ons to our team will contribute greatly. I am cautiously optimistic. In a short period of time I can see our growth and consistency.”
The Sheehan girls look to follow up on last year’s run to the Class L semifinals behind seniors Beth Arnold, Lexi Carim and Madison Yasgar.
The three captains lead each level of the field — Arnold in goal, Carim at defense and midfield, Yasgar at forward.
The speedy Yasgar had a hat trick in Friday’s 8-0 romp at Lyman Hall. She is joined up top by sophomore Dylan Smith, who also torched the Trojans for three goals.
Senior Sam Barone and junior Amy Casorla, both as forwards and out of the midfield, will be additional catalysts on the attack.
The backline is anchored by returning junior center-backs Alicea Piscitelli and Patrice Mansfield. They are flanked by fellow juniors Ashley Bunnell and Elaina D’Angelo. Freshman Trinity Lavalley backs Arnold in net.
Senior Olivia Violette is the elder stateswoman of the midfield. She had a goal Friday night.
Mostly, though, the midfield is young. Sydney Cuticelli, Lyndsey Bunnell, Katelyn Casorla and Casey Deans are sophomores. Mia D’Angelo is only a freshman.
“There are plenty of open spots on the team for the ambitious young players ready to take on the challenge of the 2020 Covid season,” noted coach Rob Huelsman. “This year’s team has some skilled players at all grade levels that are willing to put the hard work in and create some team depth and game experience to compete with the strong teams of the SCC.”Cheshire
The Rams are all about levels of experence. The girls have it. The boys do not.
After graduating a combined 29 seniors over the last two years, including All-Stater Jack Loura, boys coach Artur Branco will have many players seeing their most extended varsity minutes this fall.
Defense is the one returning strength, with co-captains Matt Pisani (goalie) and E.J. Gonzalez (center back) returning with fellow senior Nate Houle (right back). Pisani, a four-year varsity player, was All-SCC last season.
Senior Max Manware returns to his starting slot on the forward line. Moving more deeply into the mix are junior Marcello Pannone and sophomores Samir Dishnica and Colin Brown.
A key newcomer, junior Murphy Malone, has transferred in from Chase Collegiate-Waterbury.
Girls coach Kylee McIntosh, meanwhile, graduated just one senior (Marisa Brough) and returns 12 seniors, plus All-State sophomore Gabby Tirado, last year’s scoring leader.
“I think, overall, I’m very excited for the season. This is a great group of girls,” said McIntosh, the 2019 SCC Coach of the Year. “I’m happy to see the returners, but also look forward to having some more seniors step up on varsity.”
Senior Seymone Rosenberg enters her third season as starting goalkeeper. Last year, she compiled 10 shutouts and was named All-SCC First Team.
In front of Rosenberg, the Rams return seniors Danielle Ellis, Aish Benzy, Ellie Pergolotti, Izzy Pellegrino and Julia Hendrick, along with sophomore Ella Crerar. All have starting experience. Pergolotti was All-SCC Second Team.
On offense, Tirado led the Rams a year ago with 14 goals. There is balance, though, with senior Kristen Daddi, junior twin sisters Ariana and Briana Geloso and junior Izzy Dziura supplying points up top and out of the midfield.
Like Tirado and Crerar, Anna Hurlbut and Helene Lopez started varsity games as freshmen last year.
It was a heck of a run. Cheshire produced a 13-game unbeaten streak and finished 14-4-2 last year despite having three starters go down with ACL injuries. One, Caroline Campion, missed the 2019 season, but will play at Marist College. Pellegrino and junior midfielder Olivia Jones also had ACL surgeries, but have returned healthy this year.Southington
2020 lines up as a fun fall in Knights Country. There’s been a changing of the coaching guard in the boys program, with long-time assistants Austin Magaro and Rob Palko taking the mantle from Dave Yanosy, and Mike Linehan’s girls are coming off a run to the Class LL state final.
The Lady Knights, as already profiled in these pages, return 11 seniors and several key underclassmen from a squad that was 17-0-2 before falling 1-0 to Glastonbury in the Class LL final.
The senior captains, All-State center midfielder Abby Sowa, All-State forward Allison Carr and All-Conference forward Shannon Litchfield, lead a team that scored 58 goals last year while allowing just six.
Sowa, the reigning Record-Journal Player of the Year, has commited to Division I East Carolina University. Allison Carr scored a team-high 16 goals. Her younger sister, Jessica Carr, put up nine goals and nine assists as a freshman.
Senior Emily Eigo returns in net behind senior defenders Marissa Imme and Lauren Verrilli.
Morgan Hubert, Savannah Krom, Brianna Linehan and Talie Richardson — all seniors — rejoin Sowa in the midfield. Yet another senior, Micaela Potomis, adds to the attack.
The boys bring a solid core, led by senior center back Cooper Burdette, senior center midfielder Mitch Messina and striker Cole Marek.
The junior class is deep. If features center midfielders Trevor Sousa and Matt Morgan, defensemen Shane Sullivan and Ryan Salzillo and left winger Liam Schroeder. Junior Ryan Lunn is the goalie.
Newcomers to watch are Alex Murgueitio, a senior striker, and Derek Gajewski, a sophomore right wing.
Both teams are playing in a CCC pod that includes Avon, both Bristol schools, Farmington, Lewis Mills, New Britain and Plainville.
“Playing in the regional cohorts brings back the feeling of playing in some of the older CCC’s when I was on the field, but should also bring a nice local rivalry feel to the matches,” Magaro remarked. “We’re hoping to get in as many matches as possible and make every minute count. We have a great group of guys who are hungry and ready to compete. We’re excited to see what kind of results they can produce.”