Shelton boys’ soccer coach Isaac Montalvo hasn’t changed his tune because of the COVID-19 pandemic that limited his program’s preseason workouts.
“I tell the kids, every time you play no matter who is on the other side, play to enjoy,” Montalvo said. “I tell them before every game to have fun. Don’t worry about what is going to be tomorrow or who is going to be next. Let’s go game by game. Enjoy, because you don’t know, even with this virus. We are not going to worry about it. We are going to give 100 percent every game and have fun.”
Shelton will open its 11-game regular season schedule when Amity visits Finn Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m. The only spectators allowed are parents of senior players. The Gaels will play Foran, Law, Amity and Notre Dame-West Haven twice, with solo matches with West Haven, Cheshire and Platt Tech.
“Having the NFHS Network having the games is great for our fans,” Montalvo said. “We have 13 seniors and I’m happy their parents will get to see. Always good to have fans in the stands. This is a game of passion. Sometimes you want to hear that noise – ‘Yeah.’”
Shelton had 78 players try out.
“We followed the CIAC rules and had technical training for 30 minutes and physical training for 30 minutes,” Montalvo said. “That was a lot of cohorts (10 players maximum). We lost a strong core from last year, I would say in every position. Juniors, now seniors, they are stepping up. In balance, we will be okay.”
Deven Papadimitriou and Reino Sawan are senior team captains.
“I remember when Deven was a freshman, we recognized his skill level and pulled him up to play JV,” Montalvo said of his center back. “We used him at outside back, because I had two center backs that were better that year. Now as a senior, he is technically outstanding and a great right-footer. You need that kind of player there to defend the high school style of long ball.
“Reino is my goalkeeper. He is a natural and is not afraid to go one-on-one with anybody,” Montalvo said. “He is really good, with a strong left foot. He is technically good with the ball; in the air he is not afraid to come out. Reino has developed his strength. We will need him to shine. He is a quality keeper.”
Montalvo likes to play two goalkeepers over the course of a season.
“I have another goalkeeper, Alessandro Mallozzi, working hard. I told Reino, ‘you are a senior, you will start,’ I told Alessandro, ‘you are a quality goalkeeper and I can’t let you sit and watch.’ It is good for the program because we create healthy competition. Our players are happy to push each other. The personality of both wants to compete, so I’m happy with that.”
Montalvo likes his team’s depth.
“I have 100 percent confidence in the players I have,” he said. “Our JV team, because we have large numbers, some of those who could be on varsity with their quality of play, we can use them on jayvee to get them time on the field. Kids respect Alessandro and Reino, they are humble kids. I’m grateful to have those two great captains.”