THOMASTON – The big picture inevitably and understandably tends to lose focus in the emotion of the moment. Particularly when state championships are on the line.
Sunday was a tough day for the Thomaston High girls soccer team. In roughly a four and a half hour period, coach Jen Ewart’s team experienced the full emotional spectrum.
It started shortly after sunrise with the small-town magic Thomaston does so well. A full complement of fire trucks, police cars and ambulance vehicles greeted proud smiling soccer players fully intent on adding a state title to an incredible season at the high school and then escorted the hopeful Bears through the center of town sirens wailing with the side or the road crammed with well-wishers. It is a tradition a proud town does unfailingly with pride.
Shortly into the afternoon in Hartford it was a different scene. The morning’s glow having given away to a combination of frustration, tears and numbness. Mostly the numbing sensation of a season ending with a 2-1 double overtime loss to Cromwell.
There was little consolation to be appreciated because in the moment there can’t be. Getting to a state championship game and being there as one of only two teams playing on the final possible day on the biggest stage are very real achievements reveled in before the game but need time to be fully appreciated after a loss. Nobody is happy to just get to state title game once the whistle blows to start the game.
“A great season” was the first solace offered out by so many parents and fans who hurt with their team that had carried them on such a memorable journey. Others offered their own form of condolences, all wanting the Bears to know how special it has been and the final score on the final day of the season didn’t change that.
In the back of their minds the Bears know what they did. In the moment it was impossible dismiss the ending. A state title, undefeated season taken away by the Panthers. Maybe a performance that was not as crisp as needed.
Time will be a great asset here. The big picture will assume its rightful place of prominence. The smiles will return with the realization that one day, one game does not a season or journey make. The big picture is a wonderful scene of accomplishment that will resonate.
Twenty-two times the Golden Bears took the field, only once did the other team score more goals. Once. There was the first ever victory over perennial power Nonnewaug. There were four wins over arch-rival Terryville, a very good team. Count’em four, including a second round state tournament victory.
There was a first Berkshire League title and then a first BL Tournament crown which included a convincing win over Nonnewaug on its own field. Oh and the Western Connecticut Association of Soccer Officials selected the Golden Bears for their Sportsmanship Award.
But there is more to this team than just the marvelous 2023 season. This was a group that had been talked about since beating opponents including mighty Her-Bur (Harwinton, Burlington) and raising eyebrows during their younger recreation soccer days.
On a high school level they accomplished what might have been their biggest challenge – they were as good as they were supposed to be. “Be All You Can Be” and the Bears were.They never shied away from being the best.
Every season they got better. They made the tournament; the next season posted the first winning record. Next were the state quarterfinals and the following year the state semifinals. This year BL titles and a state final.
These Bears, 27 of them out of total school girl population of 88 girls, put Thomaston on the state soccer map adding another rich chapter to Thomaston High girls sports excellence.
There has been the brilliance of Claire Saunders who leaves as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 83 goals despite missing a season with a torn ACL. This year Sophia Coer was a 30-goal scorer.
There have been the `Magficent 8’ senior starters – Nicole Decker, Ava Harkness, Saunders, Rejhana Aliu, Olivia Blasko, Amber Quick, Katie Guerin and goalie Kara Sacco who was brilliant against Cromwell. Senior Haley Bethin played a key role.
The junior contingent led by a true beast in today’s language Lilly VanOrmer who ran all over the field, Coer and Gwyn Romanzi was indispensable.
They have not been just good athletes playing soccer, they have been good soccer players playing soccer. Through the last four seasons posting a record of 62-23-6.
Through it all the town took notice. In a crowd of 1,200 Sunday, a good portion wore their Brown and Gold loudly and proudly. Crowds at the semifinals the last two seasons were wore the Bears’ hopes on their sleeves.
People out of town caught the fever. My phone was inundated with requests for updates in the championship game from as far away as California and Florida while comments came in throughout the season about what this team was accomplishing.
What coach Jen Ewart, assistant coach Ernie LeClair and volunteer coaches Greg Blasko and Mike Mentone have helped create is a beginning not an ending if you listen to the casual word circulating about more younger talented booters waiting their turn. This season’s Thomaston Avalanche U-13 youth soccer club went undefeated winning the fall A Division, outscoring opponents, 34-1. Be aware of the future Bear.
The holiday season is here and the Golden Bears will move on. Four will play basketball, including All-Stater Nicole Decker along with BL All-Star Ava Harkness, VanOrmer and Sloane Walmsley. They are defending BL and BL Tournament champs and own a 2022 state title. Others will await their next challenges.
As the time passes, the Big Picture will clear if it hasn’t already. And this team will realize how special they have been and the memorable mark they have made. It truly has been a Golden journey and a Golden time.
Sunday did and does nothing to change that. It’s been quite a ride that is applauded and will be remembered.