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Soccer Doubleheader

The leaves are beginning to turn. The morning rain was the first beneficial moisture in weeks. The crisp smell of fall is in the air. This is high school soccer season in Connecticut. Tuesday, September 27th was a beautiful day to be a spectator.

My journey through Connecticut’s high school soccer leagues starts in the Central CT Conference, CCC. The 33 team super league means that just over 18% of CT public schools play in the CCC. Easily the largest league in the state. In 2015, the Class LL, L and M State Champs, as well as the Class L runners up were all members of the CCC.

I couldn’t resist starting with Wethersfield at Glastonbury. Twenty four state championships between the two schools - they are Connecticut soccer blue bloods. The last time they met, Wethersfield won a thriller in the CCC Conference tournament final in 2015, revenge for a 4-0 beating at Wethersfield early in the season. Both teams had successful runs with Glastonbury winning their 3rd straight LL title and Wethersfield losing the Class L championship game to league rival Avon in overtime.

This game was not a thriller as the Glastonbury attack scored two early goals and a third after Wethersfield star Lukas Szymecki had pulled one back. The first ten minutes of the 2nd half saw Glastonbury add two more for a 5-1 final. Szymecki, one of the state’s top offensive players, received plenty of attention from Griffin Scaglia and the Glastonbury defense.

Personal interest brought me home to Tolland for a 6 pm kickoff between the defending Class M state champion Tolland Eagles and the Hall Warriors. The first ever meeting between two teams that held regular pre-season scrimmages for the past decade would be an exciting one. Hall is off to a great start in 2016, allowing only one goal in building a 6-0-0 record. Underdog Tolland (3-1-1) has a history of playing tough against visitors - beating #1 ranked Farmington in 2011 and #1 ranked Wethersfield in 2012.

Tolland controlled play for the first half, but struggled to create clear cut offensive chances. Hall pushed back and balanced the game in the 2nd half before pressing towards the finish. Hall’s Caleb Ritter broke through with a game winner with just 3 minutes left in the 2nd overtime as Hall escaped with a 1-0 win and raised their record to 7-0-0.

These four schools, all with tradition and deep talent pools, are expected to play deep into the CIAC tournament. I didn’t see anything yesterday to challenge that assumption.

As an aside, when I began coaching, I used to insist that soccer coaches had an advantage. Unlike football and basketball, most parents were unfamiliar with soccer tactics and strategies. That protected coaches from the 2nd guessing that is routinely heard on “Friday Night Lights” football contests or in high school gyms. Wandering through the crowds at two matches yesterday showed that is no longer the case. Parents who have spent years at travel and premier matches as well as watching coverage on NBCSports and FS1 believe they understand the game and the players as well as the HS coaches who train them each and every day.

Yesterday I watched three of the best coaches in Connecticut in Mark Landers (Glastonbury), Rob Jachym (Wethersfield) and Zeke Seguro (Hall) and both the coaching performance and play on the field showed their value. Tolland’s Mike Caccomo, in only his sixth match as a varsity coach comes from a pedigreed program (Wethersfield) and clearly showed he is up to the task. It is great to see that these CT high school boys are in good hands.

I don’t know where I’ll be next week, but looking forward to seeing some more good high school soccer. Until then, good luck.

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