Raiders boys soccer exceeding expectations in 2014.
TORRINGTON: When their 2014 campaign started, the Torrington boys’ soccer team began play with more questions than answers.
Coming off a season that saw them lose seven starters who had comprised most of their offense and key parts of their defense, head coach Mike Fritch Jr. was as curious as anyone to see what his team was going to shape up to be this year.
Flash forward six weeks and 12 wins later and you can call Fritch pleasantly surprised with what has transpired.
“The players have all bought in,” Fritch said, “Coming into the year we had a lot of new kids looking to play new positions. A bunch of them were being asked to compete for positions other than what they had played on the junior varsity team.”
This team enters their final day of the regular season with a match up against Wilby (2-12) this afternoon at home playing about as well as any team in the Naugatuck Valley League and a tie to a rival may have been the catalyst for what we are seeing.
On Wednesday October 8, the first time the Raiders played at the high school this season as their new complex was being built, the Naugtauck Greyhounds came to town, fresh off a 2-0 win over Torrington just seven days earlier in Naugatuck.
It became a game fitting for the second game ever played on the new turf field and graduated, in Raider fans eyes, to classic status as the two rivals played to a 1-1 overtime tie that saw the home team play a man down after having one of their stars, Amar Suljic, ejected early in the second half.
This meant playing down a man for the last 31 minutes of regulation and the two, 10-minute overtime periods.
Playing even with the Greyhounds is no easy task, playing down a man for that long seemed insane but the Raiders fought back after giving up a goal in the first extra 10 minutes and scored on a Kevin Vaca free kick with six minutes left in the second overtime.
Never before did a tie feel like a win as it did on that night for the Raiders who have played like a team on a mission since that game, winning four in a row and outscoring their opponents by a 25-3 score in the process.
Vaca, who leads the team in goals this season, something Fritch had asked of him when the year started, simply makes players around him better with his ability to find them whenever they make quality runs.
“I know that if I get into position on a run,” senior Ethan Barbieri said, “Kevin is going to get the ball to me.”
Barbieri is one of those players who has picked up his offensive game this year along with Suljic who always has the ability to break free is defenders are not careful.
Freshman Alex Segovia has taken his game to a level that bodes well for the team’s future over the next three seasons.
The Raiders will more than likely finish as the number three seed for the upcoming NVL Tournament, which begins on Saturday and should face the number six seed.
What does he expect for his team in the post season?
“They have exceeded my expectations so far,” Fritch said, “After losing seven real good players a year ago, this has turned out to be one of my best teams in the five years I have been here.”