Raiders Boys Soccer Looks to Keep 2014 Magic Alive.
TORRINGTON: As he enters his sixth year at the helm of the Torrington boys’ soccer program, head coach Mike Fritch is entering an area that he thought he was a year ago with a team he didn’t really know what to expect going in.
All the 2014 Raiders did was post a 12-2 regular season (16-4-1 overall), reach the finals of the Naugatuck Valley League Tournament and win game in the States as well.
This time last year, Fritch was hoping to get some offense out of a pair of seniors, Kevin Vaca and Amar Suljic but wasn’t sure how much they could give.
That duo came up huge, especially Vaca, who became the goal scorer his head coach had hoped for after being the assist guy the year before.
In 2015, the mystery of what this team will become is still in the infant stages of development. The graduation of Vaca, Suljic, Alex Church, Ethan Barbieri and others has left many more questions than answers at this point.
A pair of freshman, Alex Segovia and Naseem Thompson, saw considerable playing time a year ago and will now be counted on to keep the offensive pressure on.
Seniors Matt Calabrese, Joe Lucia and Austin Curry will help anchor most of the defense and the midfield, giving others a chance to make their way into the starting lineup.
Juniors Scott Dixon and Brandon Slater will also be part of the defensive effort for the Raiders this year.
Thinking back to the 2014 campaign the Raiders had more than their fair share of thrilling matches including a 1-1 tie with rival Naugatuck in their first game played on the new turf at Torrington High School on a goal by Vaca with 3:05 left in the second overtime in an instant classic.
Or their 2-1 win over Holy Cross in the NVL semi-finals that Vaca sealed with a second OT goal with just 1:34 to go before a shootout would have been necessary.
Don’t worry though, Torrington got that opportunity the next night when they faced Seymour and came away with a 7-6 win after a game winning PK by Calabrese and some terrific goaltending by Nathan Manchester.
Manchester is not playing soccer this season so the scramble for who will mind the nets is well underway with multiple candidates vying for the job at the moment.
As usual, the NVL will present a challenge for a team looking for an identity as the Raiders are.
“There are a lot of strong returning players this year in the NVL,” Fritch said, “The league is going to be very competitive in each division. Overall we look forward to contending for division and NVL title and then advancing forward in the state tournament.”
What does the head coach (62-31-4 career mark) see so far early in pre-season?
“The team has been focused so far in preseason in achieving the same results as last year.” Fritch said. “There is a lot replace from a team that made the NVL Championship game. Returning players are determined to pick up where last season left off. Initial goals have been set that consist of qualifying for the state tournament and contending for a division title. Long term goal of contending for the NVL title is still there. With a week to go before opening day many positions are still up for grabs, which shows the determination of the team to not want to take a step back.”
The 2015 Raiders have to figure out a way to do what the 2014 team did. Mesh and grow quickly and then get better and better as the season moves on.
Opening Day is Friday, September 11 on the road against Ansonia while their home opener is slated for Tuesday, September 15 against Wolcott.