The temperature will soon drop and the leaves will start falling, meaning that autumn and another high school sports season is upon us. COVID-restrictions last fall prevented high school teams from playing a normal season, but the hope this year is that teams can complete a full regular season followed by a postseason, featuring conference and state tournaments. Here’s a preview of the fall sports teams at Glastonbury High School.
Friday Night Lights have returned! Following a year without competitive football, the boys of fall are back for a 10-game regular season of 11-v-11 full contact fun. Head coach Eric Hennessy enters his third season on the sidelines at GHS, looking to build off the team’s 3-7 mark from 2019.
“It’s been two years and the biggest question we have is how tough are we. Everyone looks good in t-shirts and shorts and I know how fast we are, I know how strong we are, and I know how athletic we are, but I don’t know how tough we are,” Hennessy said after an August 25 scrimmage vs Windsor, “I’m happy with our effort and our toughness today, and now we have to see if we can do it going forward. We’re trying to answer who we are as a team.”
The Guardians should thrive in the trenches, particularly on the defensive line where Jack Hennessy, Kevin Delbon, and John Desmarais will wreak havoc this fall. Senior Michael Connolly will anchor a rock-solid offensive line.
Senior Matt Daniels, who coach Hennessy called “the pound-for-pound most explosive player on the team” will lead the defensive secondary and make an impact on the offensive side. Junior Jordyn Sams will solidify the linebacking unit and play running back.
Hennessy has two capable quarterbacks on the roster competing for QB1. Juniors Jack Anglim and Drew Curto are vying for the starting spot.
“They both handle themselves well. I’m not looking for that quarterback that is going to push the bus, I’m looking for that quarterback that is going to drive the bus. Keeping us in good down and distances, keeping drives alive. You don’t always have to have the big plays, those plays will happen, but we have to take care of the little plays first,” said Hennessy, who wants a ball control approach, “They are both doing a great job, making my job tough. I’m going to have to tell a really good football player that they are going to be the #2.”
The Guardians have a schedule filled of powerhouses, which will test a team that is small in numbers but full of potential and brimming with excitement after a year without football.
“As soon as we were able to have live contact is when I saw the excitement come back. That joy of playing a real football game and being able to hit somebody is when I saw that excitement and intensity. I see that passion, the passion is back,” added Hennessy, “We need to focus on quality over quantity. Let’s focus on the kids that got in the weight room in the offseason, got bigger, stronger, faster. I’m happy to where we are depth-wise, even though we only have 40 guys on the varsity roster. We have a competitive nature at practice where everyone fears losing their job because there is a guy behind them that is good. You have to win every single drill and win the day.”
The field hockey program is coming off one of the most dominant seasons in the state last fall, finishing 14-0 and winning a conference title with a 7-0 win over Hall. The team outscored the opposition by a combined score of 71-2, shutting out their final seven opponents.
Veteran head coach Maureen Perkins returns 15 players from a season ago, including now-senior captains Molly Harding and Christina Guanci. Seniors Hannah David, Kaitlyn Welsh, Grace Boehning and Kaitlyn Parent; juniors Mikayla Balatbat, Alicia Choquette, and Teagan Rooney; and sophomore Skylar Fiske will be counted on to make an impact.
“Despite the limitations last year due to COVID, last year was one of the most successful for the GHS field hockey team,” stated Perkins, “While we graduated an incredibly talented and integral core of players, this year's team is ready to step up and take on more responsibilities on this year's team. They are excited to play and eager to build on the success of last year's team.”
It’s a new era with a familiar face for the girls’ soccer program. Mark Landers takes over the head coaching duties after guiding the GHS boys’ soccer program for the past two decades, amassing over 300 wins and winning eight state titles.
Landers and the team will aim to duplicate last fall’s undefeated season, which culminated with a conference championship. Senior captains Delina Chavez, Katie Donovan and Sydney Kehl, who all played pivotal roles a season ago, will be Landers’ leaders on the field.
“We as coaches understand the amazing culture and tradition of this soccer program. It will be an honor for us to carry on and uphold the core values established by thousands of former GTRAIN soccer players. Our team will look to represent our community with pride, passion and enthusiasm,” stated Landers, “We will undoubtedly support the athletic endeavors of all the student athletes at Glastonbury High School and demonstrate a high level of sportsmanship on and off the field."
Chris Vozzolo takes over as the head coach for the boys’ program that didn’t lose a game a season ago and won a conference title, defeating East Hartford 1-0.
Vozzolo, who was previously an assistant with the program, will have a robust group of seniors and a talented junior class coming back. Senior captains Mitch Williams, Vincenzo Greco, Kevin Carmichael, and Kevin Clarke will be Vozzolo’s field generals.
"The boys soccer program looks to enter the Fall 2021 season with a great class of 11 seniors. This group will lead us on and off the field. Alongside, we return a talented group of underclassmen and newcomers to the program,” stated Vozzolo, who also coaches girls basketball and boys tennis at GHS, “We will continue to represent our school and community with high expectations."
Girls Cross Country
Head coach Brian Collins believes the pieces are in place for the girls’ cross country team to competitive in the CCC, as well as potentially in the Class LL and State Open.
Ava Gattinella, who earned All-State as a freshman in 2020, will return to lead a gifted group that features Kelley MacElhiney and Jackie Carol, who is a track and field star and is running cross country for the first time. Annika Hurley, Haley Evans, Olivia Dickson, Lucy Bergin, and Kylie Hilliard will also be returning to add loads of depth. Freshman Brooke Strauss, who had an outstanding XC career at Smith Middle School, will show what she can do on the high school trails.
“Overall it should be a very solid team if everyone stays healthy. There's a lot of talented runners that should make it a very deep team. It's a great blend of young runners and some veteran runners,” stated Collins, “As a team, athletes and coaches, we're very excited for the upcoming season.”
Boys Cross Country
Returning All-State selection Joseph Accurso will head a solid group of running for a boys’ program that won six of seven meets a season ago.
Accompanying Accurso will be fellow seniors Cody Stone, Jackson Stone, Kevin Graziosi, Will Haddad; juniors Dominic Pena, Harrison Krause, Cameron Colletti, Ben Yalof; sophomores Troy Giaccone, Max Pawelek
“I am excited for this XC season,” said head coach Mark Alexander, “The guys have worked hard this summer in the weight room and with their running program. All the hard work will pay off this season.”
Boys’ golf, which was previously played in the spring, has moved to the fall.
“Making the change to the fall has always been about what we think is best for the players and to grow the game. Time will tell if we are on the right path, but the conditions and scores have so far been very favorable,” stated GHS head coach Tom Zelek.
Last spring, GHS won their division, finishing 9-0-1 within the division and 15-0-2 overall. The Guardians ranked #1 in the state, holding that position for the last few weeks of the season.
In postseason play, the team finished 2nd in the conference, finishing as the runner up out of 26 teams at the CCC championships. They then placed 3rd at the Division I State Championships, besting 17 other teams by at least five strokes.
All four golfers that competed at states will be returning following All-Conference selections. Connor Goode and Charlie Dolan, who earned All-State in the spring, along with fellow senior Nick DiNino and sophomore Gavin Kvadus will be back to build off the success from spring.
Goode and DiNino won the Connecticut 2-Man Invitational, combining to shoot a tournament record (65) in the spring, and all four continued to excel this summer, highlighted by Goode who captured the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship and won the CT Junior PGA Championship by shooting amazing rounds of 67 and 69.
The switch from spring to fall is bitter-sweet for Goode, “I definitely feel that golf will improve in the fall as the courses will be in better shape and the players will be in mid-season form. However, I am biased as I have played football since 2nd grade and was forced to choose between the two with the season change.”
Zelek also returns a talented group of young golfers who performed well in the spring at the JV level, finishing 10-2-1.
“With four players returning this year on a team that was ranked # 1 in Division I golf I’m looking forward to the season. These same players had a busy summer playing in tournaments all over the state and country,” said Zelek, “I’m really excited about the move to fall golf and the ability to get right out to play and practice with athletes who are on top of their games after playing throughout the summer. Besides the returning players we have a few others who will be able to fill out our roster and help us be hopefully one of the most competitive teams.”
Girls Swimming & Diving
Swimming and diving was one of the sports that was most impacted by last year’s restrictions. Head coach Suzie Hoyt returns for her 32nd season and is ready to get back to a sense of normalcy.
“It never gets old. The excitement is there, the anticipation, the enthusiasm, all of that is there,” said Hoyt, “We excited to get back to almost normal. Last year we had to split our team into two groups because of the size, so we really didn’t have that feeling of team. I’m very excited that all the girls are able to be together.”
A season ago, all the meets were virtual and the team was forced to practice with in two groups, making it difficult to bond as a team
“I think that last year was so difficult with all the challenges they faced. You take for granted that these other teams can practice together at the same time. A soccer team can be together outside, a football team can be together outdoors, but our girls had to enter and exit through different doors in the building. The only days we were able to be together were our virtual meets days,” added Hoyt, “The thing that is different about high school swimming is that it is absolutely a team sport, we are all about the team. The individual performances take a back seat to the team. We’re trying to get back to being a team and the fact that we are able to be in the pool at the same time is huge.”
Hoyt is still constructing a roster but Riley Kudlac and Annika Paluska, who were part of the team’s successful 200 relay freestyle team, are expected to be back.
Tony Sanith is back for his fourth season at head coach following a 6-6 shortened season in 2020.
Senior captain Ana Andriyashko, who was a starter the last two seasons, is be back to provide leadership and power up front.
“We’ll rely on her leadership and confidence on the court to control the mentality and atmosphere on our side of the net,” said Sanith, who is happy to be getting back to a normal schedule, “A lot of [the players] have talked to me about getting as close to normal as possible. If everything goes according to plan we’ll have a conference tournament and a state tournament as opposed to last year where we were playing to play and there was no ultimate goal. Our seniors especially are excited about that.”
Sanith added that he’ll count on his seniors on the defensive end and is hoping his junior class can handle the bulk of the offense.
Senior Sara Rigatti returns as the team’s libero and will handle the passing and defensive responsibilities, while junior Evelyn Brenton, who played travel the offseason, could blossom into the team’s star hitter.
“With the shortened season last year we got less experience and this year going in we have better height than we’ve had in the past,” said Sanith, who is impressed with the 70+ person turnout for tryouts, featuring over 30 freshman, “This is the most number of girls than we’ve had in the past. I would like to think it’s because we’re a consistent program.”
Senior Matt Daniels will help lead GHS football / Sydney Kehl will be a senior captain for GHS girls soccer
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin