Raiders boys soccer sends 16 seniors off in style. A season to remember, a group that will be hard to forget.
The Torrington boys soccer team Class of 2014. The team, coaches and parents got together for their season ending banquet at the Torrington Country Club on Thursday night.
TORRINGTON: It’s a group that at the start of the 2014 soccer campaign, even their head coach didn’t know just what to make of them.
The Torrington boys’ soccer team had lost a boatload of talent (seven starters) from the year before and no one had an idea of what was going to be this past fall.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” head coach Mike Fritch Jr. said. “When you lose as much as we did from the year before, it’s hard to know what you have.”
The results of what turned out to be a stellar 2014 campaign were celebrated on Thursday night at the Torrington Country Club, as Fritch and his staff said goodbye to an astounding 16 players this season.
A 13-2-1 regular season record was followed up with a Naugatuck Valley League finals run that included a thrilling penalty kick win over rival Seymour in the semi-finals.
In the States, the Raiders won a first round 2-0 decision over North Haven before falling to East Lyme by a 5-0 score in the second round.
All this while not playing on their own home field until their 11th game of the year as the Robert H. Frost Complex was renovated.
They played a memorable game against rival Naugatuck on October 8, a 1-1, double overtime thriller that was decided when senior star Kevin Vaca delighted the home crowd with a brilliant goal with just three minutes left in the second extra frame.
If ever a tie felt like a win, that was the one.
In fact, it propelled the Raiders on a five-game winning streak to end the season (they were unbeaten in their last eight).
In those five wins, Torrington outscored their opponents by a 29-3 score.
The goal every season is to take home both the NVL title and the Class L crown as well but while the journey may have come up a little short this season, the cupboard is hardly bare for Fritch who returns 30 players, not including the incoming freshman class.
This unlikely campaign was spearheaded by a player who Fritch knew he was going to need to get more offense out of if his team was going to be successful.
Senior Keven Vaca, who piled up the hardware at seasons end to the tune of All-State and All-New England honors along with All-NVL First Team, had been a distributor last season, content in delivering the passes as opposed to the goals.
All that changed in a big hurry this year as Vaca piled up goals early and often in the team’s first three games, something that made the head coach think twice about what he had on the field this season.
“After those first three game,” Fritch said, “I said to my coaches that we just might be a very good team this year. Then came St Paul.”
The Falcons tagged the Raiders with a 2-0 road loss that would be one of only two times they would walk off the pitch on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
They would move on from that loss and lose only one more time, this time to the Greyhounds in Naugatuck by a 2-0 score.
Seymour and Torrington battled for the second spot in the NVL behind Naugatuck (14-0-2) all season but the Raiders pulled off a 2-0 road win in their first matchup and a 5-2 victory at home on October 16, a game that separated the two teams but also led to a classic showdown in the NVL semi-finals.
After going through regulations and a pair of ten minute overtimes with neither team able to crack the scoreboard, Matt Calabrese gave the Raiders a 1-0 win (7-6 on PK’s) in a thriller that almost made the final anti-climactic.
This senior class is one of the largest to come out of THS in a good long time and they are a memorable bunch who relished the night, even if most of them understood that their window in high school was closing fast.
Vaca and Amar Suljic (also named ALL-NVL) were the goal scorers for the most part but got help from a supporting cast that, in most cases, had to learn a new position.
Keyon Robinson, who played defense the majority of the time, found the goal six times while Ethan Barbieri (who got best dressed honors for his bow-tie look) improved his game by leaps and bounds all year.
Stopper Luke Calabrese was just that all season, a calming foot that cleared issues in front of the most improved goalie in the NVL, Nathan Manchester.
Before he was injured late in the season, midfielder Alex Church was the rock in the middle who made the Raiders offense click while Mitchell Canty and Ryan Casper played a variety of positions when needed.
Michael DeSousa was solid at left back, as was Jose Peguero at left mid. Each of the seniors played multiple positions all year and played them well.
This was truly a team effort.
Collin Genovese backed up Manchester in the net while Nick Sparks, John Thebarge and Tom Killackey saw considerable time during the course of the season.
Graduated 16 seems like a tough one to get over but as we have seen, the cupboard for the Raiders is filled with a new generation of players looking to reach the ultimate goal.