Ava and TJ Machowski have helped lead both of RHAM High School’s soccer teams into the state tournament this fall. On the left, TJ and Ava are pictured at RHAM High School earlier this month and, on the right, Ava (four years old) and TJ (three years old) are pictured while playing soccer for the town of Marlborough in 2010.
RHAM High School has a set of siblings playing major roles for the school’s soccer programs this fall as Ava and TJ Machowski, a sister-brother duo from Marlborough, have the entire field covered.
Ava is the leading scorer for the girls teams that recently won eight straight games and TJ is the starting goalie for the a boys team that has held nine opponents scoreless this fall.
As of Wednesday, the two teams have a combined record of 19-5–5 with each team in line to host at least one game in the upcoming Class M tournaments, which begin in November.
“It’s nice that we both have something to feel happy about with our teams and something that we can be proud of,” said Ava, who is a year older than TJ.
Ava is in her final season at RHAM, starring as a senior striker that has racked up a team-high 22 goals and dished out a handful of assists.
Matt Cameron, the head coach of the girls soccer team at RHAM, stated that Ava’s work on and off the field is “exemplary” and that she “puts the team before herself and gives everything she has each day.”
“Ava is arguably the most coachable player, capable leader I’ve ever worked with,” added Cameron. “She sets the bar in terms of standards and pushes her teammates to be their best.”
Behind Ava’s production, which includes a four-goal performance against Platt, the Raptors used an eight-game winning streak that spanned Sept. 23 - Oct. 13 to solidify a spot in the state tournament.
“I think we’ve all clicked really nicely; we’re all very close,” Ava said of the team featuring eight seniors. “We keep it serious on the field and keep any drama off the field.”
TJ, a junior, took over as the starting goalie for a Raptors team that has been consistent throughout the season and finished undefeated (5-0-1) in the CCC - East Region.
RHAM boys soccer assistant coach Tim Berry, who works with the keepers, said TJ brings an “infectious energy” and “positivity” to the team.
“He’s extremely coachable and immediately applies feedback,” added Berry. “He’s a physical presence in net and reads his position well.”
TJ credits the chemistry with his defensive mates in front of him for the success this fall.
“The defensive backline is really good and we work together,” the first-year starting goalie said. “We play from our defense to offense and it just kind of flows – that’s how we’ve been winning these games.”
When they are not helping their respective high school teams in the fall, the siblings are playing club soccer in the offseason with Ava playing for Oakwood Soccer Club and TJ playing for Connecticut Football Club (CFC).
Their love of soccer stems from their father Todd Machowski, who played collegiate soccer at Keene State and is a graduate of RHAM High School — as if their mom, Corinne Machowski.
With the encouragement of their parents, the two started playing at an early age with Ava having a knack for making plays in the field and TJ finding his calling as a protector of the net.
Their position choices are ideal for practicing together as Ava said “it’s beneficial” having a brother she can practice taking shots against at home.
TJ added that the two aren’t necessarily competitive with one another, yet they “push each other” to be better.
“If I take a bad shot he’s not afraid to tell me or if he misses a save I won’t go easy on him,” Ava said with a smile, “We know we can make each other better.”
When the two are not playing in opposing venues, they attend each other’s games and noted that their time away from the fields are still filled with soccer, whether it’s talking about it at home or traveling for club soccer.
“It’s always a game or something,” added Ava.
With her final season at RHAM winding down, Ava noted that she is feeling a “little nostalgic”, yet is ready to see how the final month plays out.
“It’s coming to close a lot faster than I thought it would, but I’m excited to see far we can get in tournament,” she added.
Ava and her team play their regular season home finale this Saturday, Oct. 28 when they welcome South Windsor to RHAM for a match at 9 a.m.
TJ and the boys wrapped up their regular season home schedule with a 2-0 win over Middletown on Tuesday. For the ninth time this fall, TJ kept the net clean.
Now that it’s tourney time, the Machowski siblings have a chance to further leave their collective mark on the local soccer fields.
Middletown quarterback (#4) Colin Skene is joined in the backfield by (#6) Maxim Ellis and (#9) Zy'kie Askew. Askew ran for a pair of scores as the Blue Dragons beat Wethersfield 18-13 last Friday.
Senior running back Zy’kie Askew ran for two touchdowns and the Blue Dragons defense added a pair of scores as Middletown beat Wethersfield 18-13 on a rain-soaked Cottone Field on Oct. 20.
Second-year head coach Josh Rosek liked how his team competed on a wet night in Wethersfield last Friday.
“One of the key things we try and focus on is being a gritty football team. That has been one of our main mottos since I took over,” said Rosek, “I tell the kids that sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. We’d like to execute a little bit better, but when it comes down to it you have to find a way to win the football game.”
The host Eagles struck first, using a 12-play drive on the game’s opening possession that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mikel Lleshi. The lengthy drive drained nearly half the time off the clock in the first quarter.
Facing an early deficit, Middletown began to turn the tide on special teams and defense.
Blue Dragons punter Anthony Nanfito placed consecutive punts inside the ten-yard line, both eventually turning into defensive scores as Middletown’s defense registered a safety following both boots.
The first two-pointer was caused by a hit by Tyree Scharborough, who jarred the ball loose from Lleshi before Wethersfield
recovered the fumble in their own end zone, resulting in a safety. Then with 11:34 to play in the first half, Maxim Ellis sacked Lleshi in the end zone, cutting the deficit to 7-4.
Rosek said his defense “settled down” and responded following Wethersfield's initial scoring march.
“We got back to the basics and I thought [the players] did the things that we talked about at practice,” added Rosek, who credited assistant coach Andy Mulh for the team excelling on special teams. “We take a lot of pride in special teams and they did a great job tonight. They have been awesome all year”
Askew scored on touchdown runs from 19 and 3 yards out in the second quarter, giving the road team an 18-7 lead at halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Lleshi threw a 10-yard touchdown to Jova’n Hill with 6:17 to play in regulation.
Wethersfield’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the next possession, but — as the rain intensified — the home team’s last chance was foiled when they turned it over on downs near midfield with less than two minutes to play.
It was an extra special victory for Middletown, who avenged a heartbreaking loss to Wethersfield from last season when the Eagles blocked an extra-point to preserve a 7-6 victory in Middletown.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 0-6, yet head coach Matt McKinnon said the team has not lost their belief in one another.
“This group of guys have been going hard every single game and our record might not show it, but I’m proud of how hard they have been playing,” added McKinnon.
The Eagles have battled a tough schedule –– featuring three playoff teams from a season ago –– and an injury to junior captain Cam Righi, the team’s starting quarterback and strong safety who has missed the last three games.
“We have a month left to set a tone for the program going into the next season,” stated McKinnon. “They have so much heart, but we have to put it together for a whole game. I’m confident in them.”
For Middletown, it’s been a tale of two seasons this fall. After starting with three consecutive losses, the win at Wethersfield marked their third straight.
The streak started with a 12-7 win over Manchester on Oct. 6 before posting a convincing 34-7 over Conard as the Blue Dragons tallied a season-high in points behind Askew, who ran for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior quarterback Colin Skene also threw for a pair of touchdowns – both to Josh Ferguson – and ran for another.
“We had a tough stretch in the beginning, but the kids have come back and never wavered what we are trying to do here,” added Rosek, who led the team to a 6-4 record during his first season last fall. “We’re excited. We got three in a row and all we care about now is if we can get four in a row.”
Middletown aims to keep streak alive again at Newington High School when they play the Nor’easters (1-5) this Friday, Oct. 27. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
McKinnon’s squad looks to get on track the same night at Bristol Central, visiting the Rams (1-5) at 6 p.m.
“We need everybody doing their job every single game,” added McKinnon. “We just have to keep working, we just have to get it done.”
Wethersfield players look to the sidelines in the second half during a driving rain at Cottone Field on Oct. 20. The Eagles aim for their first win this Friday when they travel to Bristol Central.
Rocky Hill junior Daniel DiTunno ran a 17:14 to finish first overall in the Central Connecticut Conference - North as the Terriers captured a conference crown as a team.
DiTunno led the charge as the Terriers captured five of the top six spots in the CCC-North. Brian Smith (17:18) finished second, Corey Christensen (17:20) placed third, Ayden Collura (17:57) finished fourth, and Logan Simons (18:02) took sixth.
The handful of Terriers paved the way as Rocky Hill easily bested the six other teams in the conference, beating runner-up Wethersfield by a wide margin (19-79), and placing third overall in the entire conference.
Next up for Rocky Hill is the Class M State Championship, set to take place Saturday, Oct. 28 at Wickham Park, starting at 11:20 a.m.
Anthony Jr. Napoletano - Newington High School (Soccer): Napoletano scored a goal and dished out an assist as the Nor’easters went on the road and defeated Wethersfield 2-0 in a driving rain on Oct. 20. Through the first 14 games, Napoletano leads Newington with 10 goals. The Nor’easters close the regular season tonight (Thursday, Oct. 26) at Hartford Public, starting at 3:45 p.m.
Dylan Bathrick - Cromwell High School (Cross-Country): Bathrick placed sixth overall at the Shoreline Conference (SLC) championships, running a 16:22 at Hammonasset Park on Oct. 19. Bathrick, a junior, bested 62 other runners as the Panthers placed fifth overall as a team at the conference clash. Next up for Cromwell is the Class SS State Championship, slated for this Saturday (Oct. 28) at Wickham Park in Manchester, starting at 10:45 a.m.
Max Hoon - Wethersfield High School (Golf): Hoon was a medalist, shooting a 38, as the Eagles took down Rocky Hill (162-177) on Oct. 17. Hoon and his teammates then had a top-ten showing at the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) championships with Tatum Skruk posting a team-best 80 at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain on Oct. 19.
Katie Bohlke - Newington High School (Cross-Country): Bohlke finished as the runner-up at the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester, crossing the finish line in 18:38, which bested 190 other competitors on Oct 17. Bohlke, a senior, will now race in the Class L State Championships, set to take placed on Saturday, Oct 28 at the same venue, starting at 2:05 p.m.
Sabrina Schuster - Wethersfield High School (Swimming): Schuster won two individual events (500 freestyle / 100 backstroke) and teamed up with Milena Brodowicz, Sophia Klementon, and Jilian Pitchell to win the 200 medley relay as the Eagles defeated Windsor 87-70 on Oct. 17 to win the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) - North Championship for the 15th straight season. Schuster is also one of six seniors that were recognized prior to the team’s win over Suffield on Oct. 13.
Glastonbury resident Alex Norstom crosses the finish line at the 30th running of the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 14. Along with winning the local marathon, Norstrom posted an Olympic Trail qualifying time. Photo Credit - Steve McLaughlin Photography
Glastonbury resident Alex Norstrom won the 30th running of the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 14, crossing through the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford with an Olympic Trials qualifying time.
Norstrom finished in 2:16:53, besting the runner-up (Kiplangat Terer) by nearly five full minutes, and will now race in Florida next February for a chance to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics in France.
The 27-year old said preparation was the key to both winning and posting his personal-best time.
“It’s always the months and days leading up that really make it successful," noted Norstrom. “My training for the race was by far the best I’ve ever done for any race or event in the past.”
It marked the second time that Norstrom won the annual 26.2 mile race in the Capital City, also breaking the tape in 2021 with a time of 2:20:40.
Since his victory two years ago, he had always eyed an Olympic Trials qualifying time — 2:18:00 and under — but an injury to his lower back nearly derailed his chances.
Last winter, Norstrom was forced to miss miles and scale back on his training following a fracture in the base of his spine that he discovered while he was out on a run.
But through his dedication to the sport and his strong mental makeup, Norstrom returned better than ever after strengthening some “deep core muscles” that helped correct his form.
“Sometimes it takes an injury like that to figure out your body and to prevent injuries from happening,” stated the optimistic distance runner. “Maybe it is one of the reasons why everything worked out.”
The change in training paid dividends as Norstrom was able to log up to 140 miles per week without issue, combining his long runs with strength training and the proper amount of recovery.
“I stayed healthy — never missed a mile, never missed a workout, never got sick or hurt and that is really huge when it comes to running,” recalled Norstrom.
Norstrom journey from an aspiring young runner growing up in Coventry to a two-time winner of the local marathon featured a stop at Central Connecticut State University, which he said really helped him hone his craft.
It was in New Britain where Norstrom’s desire to eclipse long distances began to take shape, excelling in the 10,000 meters, among a variety of other challenging distances while competing for the Blue Devils.
“Every year you learn more about training or how your body can handle certain things and my time at CCSU was big in figuring out who I was as a runner,” recalled Norstrom. “I always had thought that the marathon and longer distances was something that I could take beyond college.”
Eric Blake, who coached Norstrom at CCSU, called him a “tough competitor” and “one of the most committed athletes that I have ever coached.”
“At Central he was one of those guys that could push through those hard days. In a sense he did things the hard way; he never wanted to take the easy way out,” added Blake. “His talent was his ability to work hard and his willingness to work hard.”
Norstrom’s ability to outwork his competitors is even more impressive considering he works a full time job at American Radio Relay League in Newington.
In preparation for the marathon, a typical day for Norstrom is waking up well before sunrise — usually around four in the morning — for a training run before putting in a full day’s work and returning home for his evening run.
“I’m either at work or doing something running related,” stated Norstrom, who has a journalism degree from CCSU and is also currently helping coach the Blue Devils cross-country team this fall.
Norstrom also didn’t take the easiest path to the Olympic Trials in choosing the Hartford Marathon, notoriously one of the more difficult marathons to post faster times.
Yet that didn’t stop the speedster from averaging 5:13 per mile pace.
Norstrom said accomplishing the feat in his home state was also rewarding. He had family and friends — included several from CCSU — on hand to witness the win.
“What I do essentially affects my friends and family, and they see what I do and they get excited,” stated Norstrom. “That is something that drives me, the ability to bring my family together.”
Many of his family and friends plan to follow him to Florida on Feb. 3 where he joins a select group of runners that have also posted Olympic Trials marathon times in certified marathons.
Norstrom and the other qualifying runners will take on the 26.2 mile course through downtown Orlando for a chance to represent Team USA
The top three male and top three female finishers from February’s race will qualify for the Summer Olympic Games, which are set to take place in Paris during the summer of 2024.
With three months to prepare, Norstrom will continue to do most of his training around town where he likes the contrast of flat, paved sidewalks throughout downtown Glastonbury and the rolling hills of South Glastonbury.
“I love it here,” added Norstrom. “Glastonbury is such a great town. Running-wise there’s a lot of cool places to go for a run.”
The seven senior players from the Glastonbury High School’s girls soccer team were victorious on Senior Night. Pictured: top (l-r) Sam Cole, Caleigh Sullivan, Emily Smith; bottom, Hailey Moriarty, Angela Chavez, Jenna Fradin, and Chloe Griffin are leading a team that has qualified for the state tournament starting next month.
Things looked bleak last Tuesday night for the girls soccer team at Glastonbury High School.
Playing on Senior Night, the Guardians trailed visiting Avon 2-1 with time ticking away in the second half before senior Emily Smith provided the spark the team needed.
With ten minutes to play in regulation, Smith received a perfect lead pass from Brynn Barbieri and fired a blast into the left side of the net to even the match.
“I needed to place it well; I needed to finish it for the team,” recalled Smith, who got behind the Avon defense and was one-on-one with the keeper. “I just needed to calm down and put it to the corner.”
Head coach Mark Landers said that Smith “stepped up” when the team needed her, adding, “She came through for us tonight.”
Less than two minutes after Smith’s equalizer, the Guardians scored the go-ahead goal when junior Maddy Handrahan headed in a free kick from Corey Anderson in the 72nd minute.
Anderson pooched the ball over a crowd of players, which Handrahan skipped off her head into the net before being mobbed by teammates in celebration.
The Guardians defense held strong the final eight minutes to preserve the team’s seventh win on the season.
After being held to a single goal for nearly 70 minutes, Glastonbury’s two goals in a matter of 89 seconds proved to be the difference on a night in which the Guardians celebrated seven senior players.
Smith, Hailey Moriarty, Chloe Griffin, Jenna Fradin, Caleigh Sullivan, Samantha Cole, and Angela Chavez were all recognized prior to the game before all seven started the game on the field.
Early on, the Guardians had a few point blank shots go awry and Avon grabbed a 1-0 lead when Kate Loparco dropped in a kick over the top of Faith-Anne Grunwald exactly eight minutes into the match.
At the 7:53 mark in the first half, Anderson tied things up when she hammered home a shot after getting an assist from Rebecca Donovan.
Avon’s Emma Loparco broke the tie by booting a lefty kick into the right hand corner of the net, providing the visiting Falcons a 2-1 lead midway through the second half.
Landers noted that he was impressed with how his team responded to the adversity, crediting his players for carrying out what the coaching staff has been preaching into practice.
A few weeks prior, the Guardians lost in similar fashion to Berlin and flipped the script in the win over Avon.
“We talk about the importance of set pieces all the time and to get a header on a set piece for the game-winning goal says a lot about what we are trying to do,” stated Landers.” You need to have in-game examples of what you practice to make the kids understand how important those situations are.”
Landers was also pleased with his offense, which hadn’t scored more than two goals in six games, dating back to a 3-0 win over Wethersfield on Sept. 23.
With only one goal at the half, Smith said her and her fellow seniors talked about capitalizing on their opportunities.
“We needed to connect on our passes and calm down because we were a little frazzled,” recalled Smith, who added the team was extra hyped up with it being Senior Night. “We need to communicate more and play our game.”
Landers added that the Senior Night triumph was important on many levels, as Avon — a Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) rival — entered GHS with a record of 9-2 and was riding a four game winning streak.
It was also another solid performance form the Guardians defense, which has carried the team through most of the season, allowing more than two goals only once and holding seven opponents scoreless behind a strong back end headed by Grunwald.
Despite losing three one-goal games over the last month, Landers said the team has continued to grind.
“We haven’t lost our belief in each other and that important,” added Landers. “We haven’t lost that belief in how we play. We are playing good soccer and we’re moving the ball well, we just have to continue to stay true to who we are.”
Two days following the victory over Avon, the team tied Southington 1-1 thanks to a spectacular goal from Anderson. Entering the week, the Guardians have posted a record of 7-5-2.
They closes out the regular season today (Thursday, Oct. 26) welcoming Simsbury to GHS for a match at 3:45. The Guardians will be seeking to avenge a 2-0 loss at Simsbury from Sept. 20.
With the Class LL tournament starting in early November, Landers said each test going forward is important and credited his seniors for steering the ship.
“All seven of them have been nothing but exceptional in their character,” Landers said of the Class of 2024 players. “The seniors always make sure the other [players] understand their value and make them part of the group. It might not come from the tactical or technical parts of the game, but more like aspects of having a good locker room and having people feel good about being together.”
This fall, Portland High School’s volleyball program created history by competing at the varsity level for the first time.
Head coach Mary Tobias said her Highlanders have grown leaps and bounds since they first started as a junior varsity team in the fall of 2021.
“To see the growth in them is why you coach,” added Tobias. “They’ve grown into the sport and they understand the skills and have gotten better at the skills.”
When the team took the court for their first official varsity game on Sept 7, it was the payoff for a project that was started three years ago by Bella Hettrick-Rivera.
Hettrick-Rivera grew up around the sport of volleyball, but the high school didn’t have a team, so she took matters into her own hands — using her Capstone Project as an opportunity to bring a volleyball program to Portland High.
“The idea came my junior year and originally I thought it would be too late to make my Capstone, but I wanted to compete it anyways because I wanted to play,” recalled Hettrick-Rivera, who had previously played club volleyball outside of school. “I wanted to bring that community to Portland high School.”
After numerous meetings with school administrators and sending a proposal to the Connecticut Interscholastic Association Conference (CIAC) — the governing body of high school sports — Hettrick-Rivera’s dream became a reality the fall of her senior year when the Highlanders made their debut, playing a handful of road games at the junior varsity level.
“I knew it wouldn't be the level I was used to, but I was totally okay with that. I was just excited to have that kind of experience with my fellow classmates,” recalled Hettrick-Rivera, who graduated after the initial season.
Following another season at the junior varsity level in 2022, the Highlander took on a varsity schedule this fall with a roster full of eager players aiming to elevate the program to the next level.
Elvira Medunjanin, Katie Laverty, and Ella Royea have been with the program since day one and have now assumed the captain’s chairs for the initial varsity team.
Along with being the most vocal player, Medunjanin is the lone senior captain, using her outgoing personality and positive attitude to influence the team.
“Being the only senior captain is cool, it gives me a feeling of leadership,” stated Medunjanin, who added that her goal this fall was to get the team to communicate more. “Everyone gets more connected. It helps us out on the court and in school, and everywhere.”
Laverty and Royea, both juniors, said that Medunjanin has influenced the entire team in a positive way.
Tobias agrees, adding, “Elvira is always positive. No matter what anybody does on the court, she finds that positive piece. She is our cheerleader for sure — the girls really look up to her.”
When building a program, experience is always tough to find and Laverty, who plays club in the offseason, is using her knowledge to help the team. She said being a varsity captain is something she takes seriously.
“I feel honored,” added Laverty, a starting setter. “We are the ones that are encouraging everyone on the team and inspiring them — we try to make the sport fun for everyone.”
Now having nearly three full seasons under their belts, Royea said it is the connection between players that is the biggest difference on the court this fall.
“We have a lot more chemistry as a team on the court and off the court.” added Royea. “I think we have more knowledge of how the game works and for a lot of people it’s the first time playing, so we’ve been able to bring everyone together.”
Tobias, who was previously an assistant volleyball coach at CHS, has been heading the program since day one.
The third-year head coach credited Hettrick-Rivera for laying the groundwork and added that the early days in the fall of 2021 were a learning experience as the team didn’t have much of the equipment needed, forcing the team to use makeshift nets and play all road games.
She added that her three captains are the perfect trio for a program building for the future, saying they each bring something different to the table.
“They are the best kids. I couldn't have asked for better mentors for the kids coming in,” noted Tobias. “They are leaders for sure; they are enthusiastic and positive,”
Coming into the week, the Highlanders are winless in the first 13 matches this fall, yet wins and losses are not what will define the program’s initial season at a varsity level.
Instead, Tobias said that the team resembles a legitimate varsity team that has used the experience of the last couple of seasons to create a winning locker room.
“They are now playing as a team and putting in actual plays. It’s really nice to see,” added Tobias. “We’re trying to build a culture of sportsmanship and they have taken that to the nth degree. It’s wonderful to see their growth.”
For Hettrick-Rivera, seeing her Capstone project morph into a varsity team has been an “amazing experience.”
“It makes me feel like I left my mark on the school and there is some legacy there,” added Hettrick-Rivera, who is currently studying aerospace and mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “I’m so glad those girls get that opportunity now.’
The Highlanders have three matches left this season, including consecutive home dates, starting tonight (Friday, Oct. 20) against Coginchaug. They also host Cromwell this upcoming Monday, Oct. 23 in their home finale. Both matches start at 5:30 p.m.
Julia Laabs - Wethersfield High School (Volleyball): Laabs has been a leader on the court for a Wethersfield team that has qualified for the state tournament with a recent five-game winning streak. Laabs, a senior captain, was instrumental during the five games, racking up a dozen kills in a win over Enfield. She also posted six aces and another eight kills, six aces, and three blocks in a win over East Catholic. The Eagles host Newington this upcoming Monday, Oct 23 before closing the regular season with a home match against Norwich Free Academy on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Both matches start at 5 p.m.
Brian Smith - Rocky Hill High School (Cross Country): Smith placed third overall as the Terriers won the Small School Division at the 11th Annual Winding Trails XC Invitational in Farmington. Smith, a sophomore, ran a 17:02 to finish ahead of 84 other competitions at the invite and was one of four Terriers to place in the top-eight. Corey Christensen (5th / 17:21), Ayden Collura (6th / 17:24), Nathan Peskin (8th / 17:28) rounded out the top four Rocky Hill runners as the Terriers easily bested the 12 other schools to win the competition.
Ben Burdick - Cromwell High School (Soccer): Burdick scored late in regulation to secure a 2-1 win over Old Lyme last Monday. Burdick, a freshman, scored the decisive goal and junior Ethan Went got things started with a first-half goal to help Cromwell pick up their fifth win. The Panthers next host Valley Regional tonight (Thursday, Oct. 19) for a match at 6 p.m.
Anaya Farmer - Newington High School (Volleyball): Farmer had a career-high seven aces as the Nor’easters beat Rocky Hill in three sets last month. Farmer, a junior who leads the team in blocks this season, then had seven kills and a pair of aces in the following match – a four set victory over South Windsor as Newington picked up win No. 5.
Tess Parker - Wethersfield High School (Field Hockey): Parker, a senior goalie, made 15 saves as the Eagles knocked off powerhouse Hall 3-2 on Oct. 10. WHS head coach Colleen Budaj praised the performance of Parker and fellow senior Sadie Ruiz — who scored a pair of goals — while senior Brynn Lisella added the team’s only goal. Wethersfield starts a four-game home stand this Saturday, Oct 21 when they welcome Enfield to Cottone Field for a game at 12 p.m. They also play host to Glastonbury (Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 3:45 p.m.), South Windsor (Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.), and Newington (Monday, Oct. 30 at 3:45 p.m.)
Rocky Hill’s Danny Roach competes with RHAM’s Nicholas Chmielewski for the ball during the Terriers 1-0 win over Oct. 6.
Paul Horta is in his fourth season on the sidelines for the Rocky Hill boys soccer team, coaching the current crop of seniors since they first stepped foot onto McVicar Field.
The strong bond between coach and players is paying dividends this season as the Terriers have posted a 5-3-3 record against a scheduled loaded with the premiere teams in the state.
With the state tournament right around the corner, Horta likes how his team has responded against the elite competition.
“I am humbled and privileged to be coaching these kids, because they are unselfish,” Horta said of his 2023 squad. “We circled this as the year when it all came together.”
On Oct. 6 the Terriers tallied a defining conference victory, defeating RHAM 1-0 at McVicar Field in what turned out to be a nail-biting battle for 80 minutes.
In the 57th minute, Noah Kazmierczak broke a scoreless tie when senior captain David Czubat fired a long shot that slipped through the hands of RHAM goalie TJ Machowski before Kazmierczak hammered it home.
“I was trying to put it near the post,” Czubat said of the play. “I was just trying to get someone to get a hit on it.”
Senior goalie Kyle Demarest preserved the shutout by making a couple of key saves down the stretch.
Horta called Demarest “a great kid” that would do anything to help the team, noting that Demarest was a former field player that shifted to keeper.
The win over RHAM was the Terriers third straight, also beating Hartford public (7-0) on Sept. 29 and Lewis Mills (3-2) on Oct. 3.
With seven senior starters, Horta said the Class M Terriers have been competitive in every game with their only losses coming to Class LL powerhouses Hall, Glastonbury, and Farmington.
Because of the team’s success the last couple of seasons, Rocky Hill was moved up to tier one in the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) and have went toe-to-toe with the conference powerhouses, which Horta has welcomed.
“This team’s character is great,” added Horta. “They’ve played hard in every game.”
Horta is leaning on what he called a “senior-laden” team, with all levels of the field littered with the class of 2024 players.
It is also a defensive heavy team with Czubat and fellow senior captain Jaiden Daigle starring as center backs, helping protect the backend with Demarest.
“In my opinion, David and Jaiden are as good as any two center backs in the state. I will go to battle with them any time.” Horta said of his defensive captains, who each earned all-conference as juniors last fall. “They have played every single game in high school. It’s been building and every year we’ve gotten more competitive with good teams.”
Czubat said that because of the experience from the last couple of years, the team hit the ground running this fall.
“We’ve been working hard in practice and now we’re playing much better as a team and getting those results,” added Czubat. “Our chemistry is very good.”
Senior forward Jason Nadeau is also back following an all-conference junior season, leading an offense that is getting timely goals in crucial moments.
Last Tuesday, the Terriers defeated Newington 2-1, earning their second victory against the Nor’easter this fall.
The program last won a state championship in 1999 and Horta said the players know the task at hand, which is to compete at the highest level once the state tournament starts next month.
“We need everybody in order to do great things that haven’t been done here in 20 or so years,” added Horta. “We have a chance, and that’s all we want is a chance.”
Senior captain David Czubat boots the ball as senior goalie Kyle Demarest looks on.
Spooky the cat was missing for nearly a month and thanks to the generosity of the community of Glastonbury, he was reunited with his family in Florida last month.
With Halloween right around the corner, stories of fright will fill the night.
But this spooky story has a happy ending.
While on a trip to Mexico in 2019, Anne Lyons was volunteering at a local animal shelter in Isla Mujeres when she crossed paths with a black cat that would soon change her life forever.
Known as Jaime at the time, the cat bonded with the Glastonbury resident, who wanted to bring the affectionate feline back to the family home on Morgan Drive.
But, because of a multitude of factors, it was not meant to be at the time.
After returning to Glastonbury, Anne could not stop thinking about the homeless cat and decided to follow up with the agency and much to her surprise –– Jaime had been transferred to an animal shelter in Boston.
Anne called it “a sign” and decided to pursue adoption.
However, adopting the cat that had originally been abandoned in Cancun prior to the pit stop in Isla Mujeres before his arrival in Bean Town would come with a caveat as Jamie had a sister, Maria, and the cats had to be adopted as a pair.
After some negotiating with her husband, the family welcomed the pair of cats into their home in the fall of 2019 –– renaming Jamie, Spooky, and Maria, Boo Cat.
For the next four years, the local family lived in harmony until the tale took a twisted turn when the Lyons were in the process of relocating to Florida this past summer
While packing up their house in preparation for the long haul to the Sunshine State, Spooky escaped and was nowhere to be seen, vanishing like a ghost in the night.
Spooky disappeared on August 27 and the Lyons closed on the sale of their house on September 1 before making the long drive to Florida without their beloved cat.
“I was devastated; my husband and daughter were extremely upset,” recalled Anne. “We were supposed to be on such a fun adventure and instead we were gutted. It felt like our family was not intact.”
Over the next 24 days, the Lyons discovered what has made Glastonbury and the surrounding community so special.
With the help of several complete strangers and the kindness of the family that bought their house, a search to find Spooky began.
Jill and Andrew Beaule, the new owners of the home on Morgan Drive, were more than willing to help in the search, offering anything they could to reunite Spooky with the Lyons.
“My husband and I grew up with animals and it pulled on our heartstrings,” Jill said. “We wanted to do anything we could to get Spooky back.”
Anne said the Beaule family allowed cameras and traps to be set up on their property, along with search parties and other disruptions without hesitation.
“I call them my angels,” Anne said of Jill and Andrew.
Protector or Animals, Animal Control, and the entire surrounding neighborhood –– featuring residents on Morgan Drive, Hardin Lane, Stevens Lane, and Sherman Drive –– all pitched in, working day and night to find Spooky.
But the wayward animal remained in the wild for over three weeks despite local neighbors hearing his cries in the night.
In mid-September, Anne returned to Glastonbury in a desperate attempt to find Spooky, setting up camp in her former yard and battling the rain for several days – but again to no avail.
On September 21, Anne sadly returned to Florida without Spooky, saying she thought the search may be over. Yet to her amazement, when he checked the cameras on the morning she arrived back in Florida she saw her beloved black cat walking into the trap.
Jill believes that Anne’s trip back to Glastonbury was the catalyst that ultimately ended Spooky’s outdoor adventure.
“Cats always love to be home and I think with Anne coming back [Spooky] felt that,” Jill stated. “I always think animals have some sort of sixth sense.”
Not even 24 hours after arriving back in Florida, Anne hopped back on a flight to finally reunite with Spooky in Connecticut.
Anne said there was “a lot of crying” during the reunion, adding, “Cats are special animals. They are part of the family and you can’t give up sometimes.”
Now the Lyons family is whole again, living their best lives in Port St. Lucie thanks to the support of the town they formerly called home.
Anne, who traveled over 10,000 miles between Florida and Glastonbury in the search for Spooky, added that it would not have
been possible without generosity of the entire community and the relentless efforts of Protector of Animals and Animal Control.
“You live somewhere for six years and you go to work every day and you see your neighbors, but you don’t really know them, or at least I didn’t, and all of a sudden this little cat bring everyone together and now we’re all friends,” she added.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin