Raiders girls soccer looks for path back to States.
TORRINGTON: It’s a tale that we have told before, the story of the decreasing number of girls that Raiders head coach Mario Longobucco has to work with as the 2015 soccer season gets ready to roll on Friday, September 11 at home against Ansonia.
Longobucco was on one side of the Robert H. Frost complex turf with his team hopefuls on Thursday afternoon while Mike Fritch Jr and his boys had the other end of the field.
18 girls went through various drill and the like while Fritch Jr. had a small army on the other and mind you, some players were not even on hand due to missing physicals.
Longobucco has become accustomed to being a bit short handed the past few years and this year, he will need to work some magic in order to compete at the level the program is used to.
Now in his sixth year (47-39-6), the Raiders head guy lost a boatload of talent to graduation a year ago, including Kendra Covington (All-Iron Division defender) who was the calming force in front of the net.
Also gone are Emily Manchester, Paige Middleton, Lindsay Trobel, Courtney Dell’Agnese and Tori Flowers.
The Raiders play in the always competitive Iron with foes from Naugatuck, Watertown and Woodland.
Torrington will make noise if the remaining players, who can now look to make their own marks, step up on both the offensive and defensive ends.
In goal this year will be a returning player who shared duties a year ago but will take on the responsibility herself this year.
Casey Saade will be the keeper while Ali Bottari will assume the role that Covington excelled in a year ago.
Scoring goals could be a challenge this year and some of the opportunities will fall to Alexis Tyrrell along with freshman Kristina Michaud with help from midfielders Cassie Fedor and Shannon Reardon.
Longobucco knows he has his work cut out for him.
“It does not help that we play in a loaded Iron Division,” Longobucco said, “Naugatuck, Watertown, Woodland along with Holy Cross will be atop the overall NVL standings. St Paul has had an explosion of girls (40) and they could be a surprise team along with Oxford.”
The Raiders get a look at both the Greyhounds at home (9/18) and on the road at St Paul (9/22) over their first four games.
At this time last year, both soccer teams played on the road while the new turf was put in place and have the advantage of training on the smooth surface from the start this year.
Longobucco is realistic about his expectations for this year.
“With 18 graduating players in the last two seasons, numbers are short and the team is in a rebuilding mode,” Longobucco said, “I have set a modest goal of qualifying for the state tournament after missing out last year. There are plenty of question marks but with hard work and dedication, we can overcome a lot of those things. It’s all about the players. They will get as much out as they put in, individually and as a unit.”
Torrington scheduled a tough out of conference game this year against Newtown late in the year at home and aside from the Chargers in game one also host Naugatuck, Sacred Heart, Woodland, Oxford, St Paul and Derby.
They will travel to Wolcott, St Paul, Seymour, Woodland, Watertown and Naugatuck.
Eight of 14 at home could work to their advantage if they make the best of their home cooking in 2015.