Storylines to watch
You’re not invited
The championship games in the top two divisions have not been very inclusive in recent years. Since 2013, four teams have claimed out-right championships in those two classes: Glastonbury, Farmington, Hand and Avon. Glastonbury has won five of the last six Class LL championships, not appearing in the 2016 final, which Farmington won over Shelton. Glastonbury was co-champion with Ridgefield in 2013… in Class L. Hand has won three-straight championships after Avon won two-in-a-row in 2015 and 2014 when it was co-champion with Branford. Farmington is the only other team to win Class L in that time, claiming that title in 2013.
New substitution rule
The National Federation of High Schools made a significant rule change for boys soccer this fall. In the last five minutes of a match, the clock will be stopped if the team in the lead is substituting. In the past, teams in the lead would run subs into the game during the final minutes in an apparent effort to waste time. Officials could stop the clock if they felt a team was intentionally stalling during the substitutions, but the new rule eliminates the referees having to make that decision. The clock will not stop in the final five minutes of a tie game unless the referee determines one team is intentionally stalling to gain an advantage.
Emotional change in Trumbull
Months after winning his fourth FCIAC championship with Trumbull, Sebastian Gangemi passed away in May after a yearlong battle with leukemia. This will be the first season at Trumbull without Gangemi since he became head coach in 2005. Gangemi’s assistant coach for 14 seasons, Sil Vitiello, is taking over the reins. During Gangemi’s tenure, the Eagles captured four FCIAC titles and advanced to the program’s only state championship game in 2011.
Unlike most other CIAC sports, the public vs. private school debate rarely comes up in boys soccer. In fact, Kolbe Cathedral in 2007 is the last school of choice to win Class S as the public schools have remained in control on the soccer pitch. The last time a school of choice to win a division other than S was in 2005 when East Catholic was co-champion with Weston in Class M.
After years feasting on Berkshire League competition, Lewis Mills has made the move to the CCC. The 2017 Class M champion will now be challenged by L and LL schools, including 2018 Class LL runner-up Hall, Class L runner-up Maloney and Class LL semifinalist East Hartford. The opening game in the CCC will come against Southington Sept. 13.
10 games to watch
Wethersfield at Plainville, Sept. 17, 6 p.m.: Plainville won the Class M championship last season, Wethersfield was a Class L semifinalist.
Staples at Warde, Sept. 26 4 p.m.: Both teams feel they can be in contention for the FCIAC championship.
Lewis Mills at Maloney, Sept. 26, 6:15 p.m.: Lewis Mills makes the leap from Berkshire League to loaded CCC. Faces Class L finalist Maloney early on.
Suffield at Ellington, Sept. 27, 3:45 p.m.: NCCC soccer rivalries do not get much better than this one.
Old Saybrook at Morgan, Sept. 27, 5:15 p.m.: The last two Class S champions and rematch of last season’s final.
Fairfield Prep at Hand, Sept. 28, 12 p.m.: On paper, the two top teams in the SCC.
Stonington at Old Saybrook, Sept. 30, 3:45 p.m.: Two of the best from the Shoreline and ECC square off in this cross-conference matchup
Glastonbury at Hall, Oct. 1, 6 p.m.: Rematch of the 2018 Class LL championship game could be a preview of the 2019 final, as well.
Trumbull at Danbury, Oct. 19, 6 p.m.: Rematch of the FCIAC final with two teams that have plenty of talent returning.
Brookfield at Newtown, Oct. 24, 4 p.m.: Late season match could carry big SWC implications.
2018 Champion: Litchfield, Lewis Mills co-champions (no tournament)
Favorites: Nonnewaug, Northwestern, Litchfield, Housatonic Regional
Players to Watch: Kyle Valickis, Gilbert, Sr. F; Eric Fowler, Wamogo, Sr. D; Timmy Donovan, Litchfield, Jr. F; Josh Cheatham, Nonnewaug, Sr. F
Outlook: With Lewis Mills moving to the CCC, the landscape of the Berkshire League has changed. For starters, the league has moved to a balanced schedule with each team playing league opponents twice a season. The league title will also be wide open. When Litchfield beat Lewis Mills last season, the Cowboys were the first BL team to do that since 2016.
Defending Champion: Wilcox Tech, Bullard Havens (co-champions)
Favorites: Wilcox Tech, Windham Tech, Bullard Havens
Players to Watch: Jordan Gills, Goodwin Tech, Sr. F; Remi Pokrywka, Goodwin Tech, Jr., F; Austin Desrosiers, Ellis Tech, Sr., F
Outlook: Wilcox graduated two all-state players, much to the delight of the rest of the league. That should open things up, making the conference winnable for a number of teams.
Defending Champion: Wethersfield (no tournament)
Favorites: Glastonbury, Hall, Farmington, Plainville, Wethersfield
Players to Watch: Alec Hughes, Glastonbury, Sr., F; Patrick Gryczewski, Plainville, Jr., F; Romi Eldah, Avon, Sr., D; Max Karkos, Wethersfield, Sr., F; Emmanuel Ofori , East Hartford, Jr., M; Chris Sederquist, Lewis Mills, Sr., D; Pat Sullivan, Glastonbury, Sr., D; Liam Wilson, Hall, Sr., D; Riley Carlson, Wethersfield, Sr. M
Outlook: The top boys soccer conference in the state is not going anywhere. The league had four teams playing for state championships last fall with Plainville and Glastonbury taking home crowns. Should be more of the same with a deep field of teams capable of making runs in state tournaments.
Defending Champion: D-1, Woodstock Academy; D-2 Lyman Memorial;
Favorites: Stonington, Lyman Memorial, Ledyard, Woodstock Academy
Players to Watch: Alfonso Vasquez, Windham, Sr., F; Nick Washington, Ledyard, So., M; Ty Fidrych, Stonington, Sr., F; Elias Hassan Farhad, NFA
Outlook: Some may view this as a rebuilding year in the ECC with so many talented young players on several rosters. If those young teams can gel, they could make some noise in state tournaments come November. Stonington has its eyes on the ECC D-1 championship a season after being ousted in the semifinals as the top seed by Woodstock.
Defending Champion: Trumbull
Favorites: Danbury, Warde, Staples, Trumbull
Players to Watch: Tiago Frazao, Trumbull, Sr. M/F; Kenly Lalanne, Stamford, Sr., F; Francisco Liguori, Greenwich, Sr., M; Charlie Sears Darien, Sr., M; Masai Castillero, Sr., F; Danny Villalba, Warde, Sr., F; Tyler Warren, Danbury, Sr., D; Masai Castillero, McMahon, Sr., F
Outlook: Danbury returns nearly everyone from its FCIAC runner-up team, including FCIAC Player of the Year Tyler Warren on defense. The league is again full of talented teams which will be contending for a title. Along with the top contenders, the league is packed with teams which can rise up and win it all.
Defending Champion: Ellington (no tournament)
Favorites: Ellington, Somers, Suffield, Granby
Players to Watch: Jimmy Maznicki, Ellington, Sr; Austin Wickham, Granby Memorial; Andy Skowronek, Somers; Jack Freedenberg, Canton, Sr. F
Outlook: Unbeaten Ellington was the top seed in Class M last season, cruising until being upset by No. 23 Plainville in the final. The league should once again be top heavy with four or five teams capable of making noise in the state tournaments and four or five teams who will struggle to win five games.
Defending Champion: Watertown
Favorites: Naugatuck, Woodland, Watertown
Players to Watch: Chris Akinduro, Naugatuck, Jr. F; Ethan Bryce, Seymour, Jr.; Jay Barth, Naugatuck, Jr. M; Kadin Talho, Holy Cross. Dante Poleta, Woodland; Devon Poleta, Woodland, Keith Cauette, Watertown
Outlook: A NVL team has not won a state championship since Naugatuck won Class LL in 2002. The Greyhounds bring back talented players and could be a dangerous opponent in Class LL. Watertown snapped Naugatuck’s five-year run as league champion last fall, beating Woodland in the conference final.
Defending Champion: Fairfield Prep
Favorites: Hand, Fairfield Prep, Shelton
Players to Watch: Ben Carlson, Foran, Sr., D; Jose Garcia Mina, Fairfield Prep, Sr., F; Erik Lorent, Shelton, Sr., F; Jack Loura, Cheshire, Sr. M; Scott Testori, Hand, Jr., F; Nick Vitti, Notre Dame-West Haven, So.; Tyler Jasinski, Sheehan, Sr. M
Outlook: Can Hand win four Class L titles in a row? Can Prep break though in the Class LL tournament? We know both teams will be good, winning is up to them. The rest of the league will once again be solid with any number of teams capable of knocking off the top teams.
Defending Champion: Morgan
Favorites: Old Saybrook, Morgan, Haddam-Killingworth
Players to Watch: Shon Ryan, Old Saybrook, Sr., M; Zach Tuccitto, Morgan, Sr., F; Alex Kadlof, Morgan, Sr. D
Outlook: The Shoreline may contain small schools but the soccer teams are high quality. Old Saybrook beat Morgan in the Class S championship game last fall, giving the team its first state title since 1983. The conference has placed a team in a state championship game every season except one since 2013, winning four titles in that span.
Defending Champion: Weston
Favorites: Joel Barlow, Newtown, New Milford, Brookfield, Pomperaug
Players to Watch: Conner Grace, Weston, Sr., M; Jack Fellowes, Weston, Sr. M; Ben Goodacre, Barlow, Jr. F; Carlos Lopez, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Sr.; Bryan Osebio, Bethel, Sr., F
Outlook: Barlow has won seven of the last 13 SWC titles and will contend again this season. As usual, the flock of contenders coming for them will be large. Despite the plethora of quality teams, Brookfield’s 2016 Class M title is the only one for the conference since 2011.