Mike Fritch Jr, in his fifth season, keeps improving the 25-year record of NVL boys soccer success turned in by his father at Torrington High School.
Class M schools Lewis Mills, Nonnewaug and Northwestern continue to offer themselves as worthy targets for the Berkshire League’s smaller schools while plowing ahead in their own success.
Torrington came agonizingly close to even bigger prizes while setting a regular-season school record for wins (15) last year. Naugatuck was one step better, handing the Raiders their only loss in a perfect regular season of its own.
The Greyhounds stopped Torrington again in the NVL Tournament finals. Then, in the Class L second round, Pomperaug came away with a 2-1 win in overtime.
Graduation hit a stellar Raider defense hard. John McCarthy, Nick Mancini, Seth Gesmondi and goalkeeper Zach Paniatti formed a solid wall most games.
Just ahead of them, Shane Bierfeldt and Chris Parotta focused the heat at midfield.
“We scored three goals on (Torrington),” was Northwestern coach Andy Campbell’s way of reporting some Raider defensive rebuilding in an early pre-season scrimmage.
“They scored six on us,” was his report of a stellar Torrington offense that ought to give a growing defense time.
“We have a good young group eager to replace the kids who came before them,” said Torrington Coach Fritch. “They know who left; they’re more than eager to step in.”
At least as important is who’s still here.
“Everyone is stepping up,” said senior Amar Suljic. “Last year’s leaders taught those under them. The game plan doesn’t change. At the end of the day, the goal is to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Nobody did that better than Suljic last year. Northwestern’s Coach Campbell views him as the best player in the area after their scrimmage.
“We have faith in our defense,” said Alex Church, a senior who’s back at midfield after missing the last half of the season with illness a year ago.
Kevin Vaca, another senior, is an artful midfielder who served up assists to many of Suljic’s goals last year.
In the Berkshire League, “the rich get richer,” laughs Coach Campbell.
He’s talking about perennial power Lewis Mills, who graduated an All-State midfielder – Seth Ouellette – and an All-BL goalkeeper – Alexander Daigle – but gained an Oakwood Soccer Academy midfielder – Jimmy Wilcox – in their absence.
Mills coach Ben Kulas, whose team tied Nonnewaug for the league championship last year thanks to a late-season tie with Housatonic, knows what he’s got, with eight returning starters plus Wilcox.
“We have a pretty solid team, including all-conference players (and all juniors) forward Freddy Marinelli, midfielder Kyle Baron and center back Alex Slade Pearson. We also return Cole Farrey, a three-year varsity starter who is an absolute force in the middle of the field.”
Nobody’s conceding the title to the Spartans, least of all Nonnewaug and Northwestern.
The Chiefs made it to the Class M Quarterfinals last year, farther than any other area team. All-New England forward Jack Kingdon (31 goals, 10 assists) will be back in the lineup as a senior captain when he recovers from an injury sustained over the summer.
Until then, the offense hangs with a pair of talented sophomores – Leland Malloy and Nathan Firlings, who scored seven goals apiece as freshmen.
“Lewis Mills was tough to beat a year ago and should be again,” said Nonnewaug coach Toby Denman.
Northwestern played Mills to a scoreless tie twice last year.
They, too, bring back eight starters, led by All-BL midfielders Christian Royer and Winter Thorne-Keneulis.
The Highlanders established their pre-season credentials in a 2-1 loss to NVL champion Naugatuck.
This year’s captains – Royer, Zach Tuxbury, Will Scharnberg and Michael Carter – felt the energy while keeping up with a team that plays faster than most others in the state.
“We’re really fast,” said Carter, a senior striker. “We can keep up with anyone.”
Campbell sees the BL race as the Spartans’ to lose with Northwestern and Nonnewaug fighting it out, along with Housatonic and Litchfield.
Housy lost All-State keeper Willy Yahn and All-State forward Renato Oliveria, but bring back a solid senior core.
Litchfield is “young but very eager to prove themselves,” says Cowboys coach Rob Anrulis.
Count the rest of the Berkshire League in on that sentiment, as well as Wolcott Tech in the Constitution State Conference.
“We feed off each other well,” said senior stopper Jared Mongitore, who hopes to lead the Wildcats back to the middle of the CSC after a 4-10-2 dip last year.
Players to Watch
Amar Suljic, senior, Torrington
Freddy Marinelli, junior, Lewis Mills
Jack Kingdon, senior, Nonnewaug
Brandon Hookstadt, senior, Litchfield
Darius Sanchez, senior, Housatonic
Ardit Coma, senior, Thomaston
Adam Benson, senior, Terryville
Ty MacBurnie, senior, Wolcott Tech
Jake Shoenberger, senior, Gilbert
Logan Racz, Shepaug
Christian Royer, senior, Northwestern