Raiders boys soccer awakens in second half, beats Seymour by a 5-2 score.
Nate Manchester comes off the field late in the Raiders 5-2 win over Seymour. Manchester kept his team in the game with a tremendous first half in goal.
TORRINGTON: Ah, the tradition of Senior Night. Parents, friends and relatives of the student/athletes being honored love it.
It’s a time held tradition that allows the athlete and those most special to them to take one more bow on the field, hardwood, track or pool of their expertise.
Trouble is, more often than not, all that sentimentality and ceremony tends to drain players of something and it sometimes has a negative effect on a team.
Getting back up to play in a competitive contest against a league foe takes a little time at times.
Such was the case on Thursday night as the Torrington boys soccer team held a last salute for 12 players who are calling this their last season at THS.
It took a little more than a half as a matter of fact before the home team turned off the smooth jazz feeling they had during the pre-game and replaced it with some heavy metal in the second in route to a 5-2 win over the Seymour Wildcats.
At times like this it helps to have an underclassmen in position to do something about it and if not for junior goalie Nate Manchester’s marvelous first half, the final outcome of this one could have turned sour in a hurry.
Manchester was under attack early and often by the Wildcats and during one sequence, turned away two point-blank range shots from Marco Espinosa that had some steam on them before grabbing hold of the third attempt to keep the game scoreless five minutes in.
“Nate saved us in that first half,” Raider coach Mike Fritch Jr. said, “It took us awhile to get going on Senior Night. We were very lackadaisical in the first half, maybe we got caught up in the night. We were not ready to play.”
The Wildcats took advantage and had the better part of the action in the first half and finally broke through with 21:47 to play in the first off a free kick that was eventually put past Manchester by Wesley Minalga for a 1-0 lead.
“We weren’t talking too much in the first half senior,” Ethan Barbieri said, “We had a lot of gaps and we were trying to spread the ball but we were not talking as much as we needed to.”
Late in the half, the Raiders started to pepper the Wildcats with offensive charges, Kevin Vaca just missed on a 35-yard bomb that went just over the cross bar before Amar Suljic made a run inside the left side of the box and launched a left-footed rocket that found the back of the net to tie things at one goal apiece.
The Suljic goal seemed to wake the home team up and in the second half, the offense started to click, explode would perhaps be a better description.
One of the best things about watching the Raiders this year is experiencing the wonder that is senior Kevin Vaca.
Vaca, it seems, was born with a soccer ball on his foot, much like some others are born with a baseball in their crib.
The ball and Vaca act as one at times, much to the dismay of anyone unfortunate enough to be trying to guard him.
Off a beautiful cross from Suljic, Vaca rose and connected with a header midway through the second half, a goal that opened the flood gates for a total of four.
The Raider attack was ignited and everybody grabbed a piece of the flame.
Austin Curry connected on a nice right foot blast with help from Barbieri, who played a terrific game for the Raiders on his Senior Night.
Barbieri set up Suljic for his second score a minute later while Vaca connected for the game’s final tally on a ball that hit the top of the cross bar and bounce just over the line for the Raiders fifth score.
With the win, Torrington improves to 11-2-1 while Seymour falls to 10-3-1 but are still ahead of the Raiders in the NVL race based on their only having one loss in the league to Torrington’s two.
Two games remain in the regular season for the Raiders. They travel to take on Holy Cross (8-4) on Saturday before finishing up at home on Monday afternoon against Wilby (2-11).