The local boys soccer teams are kicking off their season and there is a lot of optimism to go around. As in most other sports, some teams are ahead of others, but every team still has room to grow.
Berlin, Plainville and Southington are all teams coming off excellent 2016 seasons and are all expecting to compete in their respective classes again this year. All three may have lost some key pieces, but have plenty of talent returning to make up for those losses.
A tier below those three schools are New Britain and Newington. Both the Hurricanes and Indians qualified for their postseason tournaments, making the bottom half of their brackets last year, and have the potential to make even bigger strides this season.
Finally, there is Goodwin Tech and Innovation. The Gladiators won just a single game in 2016 after going winless the year before. But Goodwin Tech has a group of young players returning that saw plenty of action, which should help. The Ravens, meanwhile, are kicking off their inaugural season with a boys soccer program. They will be a wait-and-see team as the season progresses.
Here is a closer look at the local teams:
Head coach: Garth Lawrence (2nd season)
Last year: 7-6-3 (Lost in first round of Class LL tournament)
Key losses: Lemar Wilks, Drake Robinson, Ian Kelly, David Chojnowski, Nikoderm Jarmoszko, Pablo Castellanos
Expected key returnees: Adam Gotter (sophomore, goalkeeper), Nick Makuch (junior, midfield), Gabriel Navarro (sophomore, midfield)
Outlook: The Hurricanes took a big step forward last season, upping their win total from four to seven and earning a postseason berth. Head coach Garth Lawrence will now have the task of having his team make another jump in his second season at the helm.
But New Britain will also have to replace some of best players that made such a difference last season, including All-Stater Pablo Castellanos. At the same time, the Hurricanes have some young talent returning, highlighted by sophomore goalkeeper Adam Gotter.
Overall, this should be a fun team to watch this season.
Head coach: Sal Parafati (4th season)
Last year: 11-3-3 (Lost in second round of Class L tournament)
Key losses: Ben Kennure (goalkeeper), Evan Hilbie (midfield)
Key returnees: Noah Silverman (senior, forward), Ryan Jenkins (senior, midfield), Curtis Arcari (senior, midfield)
Outlook: It was quite the season for the Redcoats in 2016. They finished with the third best record in Class L and earned a first-round bye. But Berlin lost in the second round on penalty kicks.
Bigger things, however, could be in store for this season’s Redcoats. Head coach Sal Parafati returns nine of his 11 starters, including All-New England forward and main offensive threat Noah Silverman, All-State midfielder Ryan Jenkins and all-conference midfielder Curtis Arcari.
As such, Berlin expects nothing short of competing for a conference title as well as making sure its run in the postseason lasts longer this time around.
The Redcoats have almost all the pieces. A big question for the team will be the replacement of All-CCC goalkeeper Ben Kennure. If that gets sorted out, Berlin will be a tough team to play, let alone beat.
Head coach: Jeff Brunetti (7th season)
Last year: 5-9-3 (Lost in first round of Class L tournament)
Key losses: Kevin Bilbraut (defense), Luke Gilchrest (midfield), Joey Terranova (forward), Zach Harmon (goalkeeper)
Key returnees: Jared Galarza (senior, midfield), Mike Ganley (senior, defense), Jake Knowlton (senior, defense), Jack DeGirolamo (junior, goalkeeper), Dominic Palaia (senior, midfield), Andrew Baressi (junior, midfield), Louis Egbuna (junior, defense)
Newcomers to watch: Goncalo Pinhanos (freshman, defense), Trey Sadler (sophomore, defense), Matt Hamill (senior, midfield/defense)
Outlook: Newington was another team that made strides in 2016 and will look to continue to do so this season. Head coach Jeff Brunetti lost some key players, such as goalkeeper Zach Harmon and forward Joey Terranova, but returns a squad filled with veteran talent along with plenty of promising newcomers.
Jared Galarza and Mike Ganley highlight some of the key players returning. The defense will be something to keep an eye on with the Indians bringing back only one starting defender, but Newington moves the ball well and that could be a strength as the season goes along.
Head coach: Dave Yanosy (12th season)
Last year: 10-5-2 (lost in first round of Class LL tournament)
Key losses: Mike DeFeo (defense), Erik Kryzanski (midfielder), John Testa (forward)
Key returnees: Evan Daddona (senior, goalkeeper), Dan Topper (senior, midfield), Hayden Burbank (senior, midfield), Kieran Tindall (senior, defense), Joe Colaccino (junior, forward), Colin Burbank (senior, midfield)
Outlook: If one thing is always expected out of the Blue Knights, it’s that they are to be in contention in either the conference or in the state tournament mix. This year is to be no different.
Southington returns several key players from a season ago, including goalkeeper Evan Daddona, who is drawing Division I interest.
Overall, head coach Dave Yanosy has a veteran-laden team at all levels, with seniors Dan Topper and Hayden Burbank leading the midfield and senior Kieran Tindall anchoring the defense. The big question will be whether or not the team can score enough goals to compete with the likes of Glastonbury, Farmington and Hall.
Head coach: Tim Brown (10th season)
Last year: 8-9-2 (lost in Class M quarterfinals)
Key losses: Juan Torres (forward), Alex Autunno (midfield), Grant Sarra (defense), Josh Thompkins (defense)
Key returnees: Patryk Wnorowski (senior, defense), Parker Bernier (senior, defense), Jordan Bishop (senior, defense), Sergio Zaldivar (junior, goalkeeper), Jake Hillburn (senior, forward/midfield), Matt Bialko (senior, forward/midfield), Matt Violette (senior, forward/midfield), Dane Stephens (junior)
Outlook: It seems like every year the Blue Devils play their way to the Class M quarterfinals. Last season was no different despite some tough results along the way and more of the same is expected this year.
Plainville did lose some of its core players to graduation, but brings back much more than it lost.
Sergio Zaldivar returns to anchor the team in net, while head coach Tim Brown has a myriad of offensive weapons, including Dane Stephens and Jake Hillburn.
Brown expects some of the games his team plays to be difficult once again, but those will only serve to have tested Plainville once it’s state tournament time once again.
Head coach: Nicholas Ogorzalek (2nd season)
Last year: 1-14
Key losses: Damian Martin (goalkeeper), Abimelec Batista (defense)
Expected key returnees: Christopher Cumba (sophomore), Darius Kot (senior)
Outlook: The Gladiators are coming off a year in which they were slightly better than they were in 2015, winning one game instead of none. As such, there is no place for Goodwin Tech to go but up in Nicholas Ogorzalek’s second season as head coach.
The Gladiators did lose goalkeeper Damian Martin and will once again have a young roster that has just five seniors, six juniors and seven sophomores. There will certainly be some growing pains along the way. It will just be a matter of if the team can learn and grown from them.
Head coach: Matt Collins (1st season)
Outlook: This will be the Ravens’ first season with a boys soccer program and there will certainly be some bumps and bruises along the way.
Head coach Matt Collins could have a lot of work ahead of him, but Innovation has done a good job in its other sports making its teams as competitive as possible early on.
This season’s Ravens are heavy on upperclassmen, with eight seniors and four juniors, which should help. But more won’t be known until they step out on the field for at least a few games.
Expect this year to be a somewhat of a building one for the school.