FAIRFIELD >> Head coach Whitey Budreckas thought for a moment and smiled.
“Opportunists,” he said. “They never give up, they play hard.”
Budreckas used those words to describe his team this fall. Budreckas has been the head coach of the Notre Dame-Fairfield boys’ soccer squad for the last 12 years, where wins have come few and far between in the years.
Winning has never come natural for the Lancers, but as Budreckas described, this team has adopted the mantra of never giving up, and slowly this fall the victories are started to come.
It’s been a long time coming for Notre Dame, but now with a 4-4-2 record heading into Monday’s game against Sacred Heart, the Lancers are on the brink of qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 1993 and the first time in Budreckas’ tenure.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” Budreckas said. “It has a lot to do with the players themselves though. And the kids have been working very hard. They grow within each other. The more they try, the more better they get; they don’t want to be the last guy on the bench. Everyone wants to play.”
After finishing 5-10-1 in 2013, Budreckas said there were glimpses of what could unfold this fall. A young Lancers’ squad inherited Felipe Canizan and Renan Giuberti, who hail from Brazil and have provided an immediate and welcomed boost in play and energy.
“We have two players, both freshmen and they give the attitude and hustling and everything,” Budreckas said. “And that grows on the rest of the players, it’s an automatic, it’s like a disease; it makes everyone want to play harder.”
What has also been an added benefit is the cohesiveness of the squad.
“This year we’re more united,” said sophomore Max Cano who plays centerback and midfield. “We have more trust in each other.”
“It’s a family win or lose,” Budreckas said.
Budreckas said they’ve received strong play from almost every area on the field as he mentioned, Cano, Connor Jorge (center-mid), sophomore Pedro Oliviera and senior keeper Kenny Fan as just a few names.
“We have players that have improved tremendously,” Budreckas said. “More and more are coming in with experience.”
The sudden spurt of success hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. Jorge said it’s taken some time to develop the winning mindset, but once they have it’s been a fun and enjoyable journey this fall; one they hope continues into the postseason
“It’s been a bumpy ride,” Jorge said. “I feel like in the beginning we were remembering the old past ND and our confidence was low. Now we’re starting to realize we’re a better team. We’ve surprised a lot of opponents. The best thing is we’re all good with each other and get along; we’re a fun team.”