State tournaments are less than three weeks away for boys and girls soccer and teams that expect to be there for the postseason are trying to work their way into tournament form.
Two local teams have been heating up in recent weeks and both hope to last deep into the state tournament come November.
Plainville’s Patrick Gryczewski and Newington’s Reagan Pelton are this week’s Athletes of the Week for helping their respective teams prepare for what they hope will be memorable performances come tournament time.
The Plainville boys soccer team has lost just once so far this month, and has erased an 0-4 start thanks to improved play all around, specifically from their junior midfielder Gryczewski.
Last week, which saw the Blue Devils pick up two wins in as many tries, Gryczewski was all over the field, netting the game-winning goal on Tuesday afternoon against Newington, before putting home a pair of goals in the second half on Friday in a 2-0 win on the road against Maloney.
“He’s become an extremely well-rounded player,” Plainville head coach Tim Brown said of Gryczewski’s growth. “His offensive skills combined with his vision and understanding makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders. His off-the-ball movement and speed drags defenders away, which opens gap for his teammates.”
Gryczewski’s scoring ability shined last week, but if you ask Brown, his offensive potential tells only half the story. The junior has also shown great improvement on the defensive end of the field, which has helped Plainville allow just two goals over its last six contests.
“Defensively, he tackles hard, he hunts the ball and he recovers quickly from forward runs,” Brown explained. “He routinely stops opposition counter attacks.”
The Blue Devils needed Gryczewski to step up and lead the team this year, as he represented the only returning all-conference talent from last year’s state championship team (Dane Stephens, Tyler Miller, Mike Torres and Sergio Zaldivar all graduated last spring). He’s done just that, and is helping Plainville find its stride before the state tournament begins, where the young Blue Devils will have a key contributor form last year’s historic team to help make up for Plainville’s inexperience. If you ask Brown, he couldn’t have asked for a better player to try and lead the Blue Devils to a repeat.
“He’s a hard worker,” Brown said. “He loves the game and is an outstanding example of dedication and passion.”
The Newington girls soccer team has also been on a hot streak lately, though the Indians’ surge has been ongoing since the season started, and has shown no signs of relenting.
After reaching the second round in last year’s Class L state tournament, Newington carried an impressive 9-1 record into Monday’s contest against Hartford Public, and has won four straight games. A big reason has been the play of senior forward Reagan Pelton, who has been an assist machine for the Indians of late.
In last Tuesday’s win over Lewis Mills, a narrow 2-1 victory that put Newington’s win streak in jeopardy, Pelton picked up an assist and scored a goal to break a 1-1 tie in the second half, and had another helper two games prior in a convincing win over Windsor, on a day where she also picked up a pair of goals.
This has been the norm for Pelton, who has seven goals and 13 assists, for much of the year. In a 4-0 win over New Beritain, the senior had two assists, and in a victory over Bristol Eastern racked up another three assists. Goal scorers like Olivia Mullings light up the goal column, but often times it’s Pelton starting the scoring chance with her skilled passing, which the Indians will need if they want to make a deeper run in the state tournament this year.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org