Less than one week away from the start of the boys soccer season, local teams enter the new campaign with varied expectations.
From defending state champions to teams looking to bounce back from down years, the upcoming season should have a little of everything.
How will Plainville respond after its first-ever state title? Will New Britain and Berlin get back to the state tournament after coming up short last season? Those are just some of the questions swirling around the pitch this fall.
Here is a closer look at each team:
Head coach: Garth Lawrence (3rd season)
Last year: 4-10-2
Key losses: Gabe Navarro (midfielder)
Key returnees: Adam Gottner (senior goalkeeper), John Morell (senior midfielder), Konrad Piechota (senior forward)
Notable newcomers: Cameron Naples, Lucas Klimkiewicz
Outlook: It was a tough season for the Hurricanes in terms of wins and losses, but another year of development for their returning starters (and there are a lot of them) should help them this fall.
Among the returnees for New Britain is all-conference goalkeeper Adam Gottner, who logged 12.1 saves per game as a junior last season and has been an All-CCC selection three straight seasons. He should be a safe bet to earn his fourth in his senior campaign.
Midfielder John Morell joined Gottner on the all-conference team last season, and he will join Gottner on the field again this year for his senior season. His six goals and seven assists last year paced the Hurricanes offense, and with Konrad Piechota also returning to help New Britain’s offensive attack, the Hurricanes could make the jump to the state tournament come November.
Head coach: Sal Parafati (6th season)
Last year: 4-11-1
Key losses: Matt Boucher (defense), TJ Hebert (midfield)
Key returnees: Gabe Negrao (senior defense)
Outlook: A lot can change in a matter of one season. Just ask the Redcoats, who won 24 regular season games in a span of two seasons before claiming just four in 2018. What contributed to such a drastic dropoff? Well, losing 26 seniors in two seasons doesn’t help, so Berlin will be looking to continue to build experience and poise throughout its roster this season.
The big losses this past offseason came on both ends of the field, as all-conference defender Matt Boucher and all-conference midfielder TJ Hebert graduated in June, leaving plenty of production to be replaced. Young and inexperienced, the Redcoats will be looking to build a new foundation this fall, much like the one they constructed with their past crop of upperclassmen.
Berlin’s schedules won’t do them any favors, but it should help the team grow quickly against top competition. The goal is to get back to the state tournament, but the maturity of its roster will have to be swift.
Head coach: Jeff Brunetti (9th season)
Last year: 7-5-4 (lost in first round of Class L tournament)
Key losses: Jack DeGirolamo (goalkeeper), Aslan Tate (defense), Eric Kozikowski (forward), Hermish Adarkwah (forward)
Key returnees: Trey Sadler (senior midfielder)
Outlook: The Indians certainly have a lot to make up for on the defensive end, having lost all-conference goalkeeper Jack DeGirolamo and all-conference defenseman Aslan Tate to graduation. DeGirolamo leaves behind seven shutouts and 122 saves during his senior campaign, while Tate’s senior season ended in his second straight All-CCC nod. Backup goalie Collin Liedke also graduated, so Newington has to replace a lot of defensive production if it wants to get back to the state tournament.
The Indians might need to up their goal scoring to make up for the losses on the defensive end, and senior Trey Sadler should help in that regard. After logging three goals and six assists in an all-conference sophomore season, Sadler earned all-conference honors again as a junior, and will look to make it three straight this season. Look for Sadler to be the highlight of this Newington team on offense, and if the Indians can make it back to the state tournament, he will likely be a big reason why.
Head coach: Dave Yanosy (14th season)
Last year: 3-11-2
Key losses: Joe Colaccino (forward, midfielder), Eli Rodriguez (backfield), John Griffin (goalkeeper), Colin Burdette (backfield)
Key returnees: Joe Tellerico (senior backfield), Sam Miranda (senior backfield), Marek Kryzanski (senior midfielder), Ryan Daddona (senior midfielder), Andrew Kudla (senior midfielder), Chris Chaplinsky (senior midfielder).
Outlook: The Blue Knights took a step back last season after winning 10 games in 2017, but they’ll be hoping for a rebound this fall. Southington graduated six starters, including their only two all-conference selections in Joe Colaccino and Eli Rodriguez, but a core of returning seniors should help lessen the blow.
Ryan Dadonna, the team’s most improved player from last season, highlights the returning upperclassmen, which includes two-year starter Joe Tellerico. Dadonna and returning contributors in midfielder Andrew Kudla and forward Chris Chaplinsky will need to provide offense for a Blue Knights team that is looking for an improvement in the goal scoring front. This will likely be a season of incremental improvements after last season, but look for a much improved product on the field.
Head coach: Tim Brown
Last year: 13-7-1 (won Class M state championship)
Key losses: Dane Stephens (forward), Tyler Miller (defense), Michael Torres (forward), Sergio Zaldivar (goalkeeper)
Key returnees: Patrick Gryczewski (junior forward)
Outlook: Last season will be a tough one to top for head coach Tim Brown and the Blue Devils, especially after the team went on an unprecedented run to their first-ever state championship, taking down the top-three seeds in the process. As can be expected, Plainville loses a great amount of its core from last year’s title team, and it comes from all over the field.
Dane Stephens, who recorded the assist on the Blue Devils’ game-winning goal in the title game, graduated last June, as did all-conference selections Tyler Miller, Michael Torres and Sergio Zaldivar, who shined in net to the tune of five shutouts, including one in the state championship game.
Still, Plainville will have all-conference selection Patrick Gryczewski, who is returning for his junior season after a sparkling sophomore campaign. Gryczewski should be enough to keep the Blue Devils offense humming, and Brown is confident on the young guns ready to step up on the defensive end, so look for Plainville to put together another quality season.
Head coach: Salko Kolarevic (3rd season)
Last year: 10-5-1 (lost in first round of Class S state tournament)
Key losses: Quentin Askew (defense/goalkeeper)
Key returnees: Alanzo Hill (senior midfielder), CJ Allen (senior midfielder)
Outlook: Two years, two state tournament berths make up the brief history of Innovation soccer so far. After winning nine games and reaching the second round of the Class S state tournament in 2017, the Ravens upped their win total in 2018 and reached the state tournament once again. This season figures to bring more success as the program continues to evolve.
Alonzo Hill and CJ Allen will bolster Innovation’s offense, as both midfielders earned all-conference honors last season. The loss of all-conference defenseman Quentin Askew is a blow to the team, but expect the Ravens to once again contend in the CRAL and get back to the state tournament.
Head coach: Ronald Murray (3rd season)
Last year: 7-7-2 (lost in first round of Class M state tournament)
Key losses: Daniel Navarrete (defense), Dan Kazmierczak (striker), Daniel Wodz (midfield, defense)
Key returnees: Jordan Gills (senior forward), Remi Pokrywka (junior forward), Kenny Hemenway (senior forward)
Outlook: It was quite a turnaround for the Gladiators in 2017, going from a one-win season in 2017 to a state tournament berth in 2018. Goodwin was handled by Brookfield in that state tournament game, but it was valuable experience for a Gladiators team that brings back plenty of capable talent.
Jordan Gills and Kenny Hemenway will be counted on for senior leadership this fall, and despite losing a couple key pieces on the defensive end, the Gladiators still have the potential to get back to the state tournament and build upon a 2018 season that was a major leap for the program.