For 34 minutes, Newington and Rocky Hill played to a scoreless standstill at McVicar Field on Oct 8.
Reed Campbell and Christian Amaral broke the deadlock with 5:54 remaining the first half when Campbell led Amaral with a precise pass, which Amaral booted past goalie Jamin Shan for the go-ahead and deciding goal in a 3-0 Newington victory.
Campbell and Amaral were captaining the Indians for the road game, showcasing leadership qualities and providing a much-needed lift of the offensive end.
“Reed is a phenomenal kid and Christian worked so hard in the offseason. Both of these guys are looking to play at the next level, so their leadership is so important,” said Newington head coach Jeff Brunetti, “They have that connection on the field, which is great because that got us going. It took a while and give Rocky Hill credit, they are playing a different style of soccer this year and they are doing a really nice job.”
Midway through the second half Campbell provided a goal of his own when he found the left corner of the next from 15 yards away and sophomore Jack Stair added the finishing touches with a goal in the 72nd minute.
Brunetti’s team has a nice blend of senior experience and youthful energy, which was beneficial during the uncertain offseason, “My job has been really easy because they were so internally motivated. They played summer soccer, they worked together. When they have that intrinsic motivation to get fit and do better, my job is easy. I give my players all the credit for that. They really prepared in the offseason.”
On the defensive end, Newington stifled Rocky Hill’s attack early and often as first-year goalie Xander Ford protected the net. Ford is replacing goalie Nicholas Cox, who graduated following a terrific year in 2019.
“Xander is doing a great job, making saves and keeping us in games,” added Brunetti, “We expect that as part of the culture of our program. As kids come up, they are prepared to play.”
The Terriers threatened a couple of time in the second half, but Ford stopped every shot he faced, including a pair of pointblank shots from senior Marcello Gugliotti in the second half.
Rocky Hill’s first-year coach Paul Horta said the game is another learning experience for a program in transition, “Obviously we are trying to win games, that is still our first and foremost, but we’re not going to judge success on the field by the final result. We have to see growth, individually and as a team, and I think they’ve grasp that and they understand that. Hopefully we can see that progress in games nine, ten, eleven, twelve.”
During this shortened season, Horta is implementing his philosophy while learning the tendencies of his players.
“We knew it would be a slower process than normal, but COVID has given us more time with the boys because we had those three weeks before contact to talk about our philosophy,” added Horta, “They’re a young group, we start two freshmen, we have another coming off the bench that plays a lot of minutes. We looked at the whole year like it was going to be a development year.”
Horta’s team is also playing shorthanded as captain Michaeljon Moleiro is out with an injury and starting goalie Murad Kup was forced to miss the game against Newington.
Moleiro, Kup and Ricky Alvarado serves as team captains and are part of a senior class that helped during the coaching changeover.
“They’re a great bunch of kids,” Horta said of his seniors, “Even though some of them don’t play as much, they are all role models and set the tone in practice. You wouldn’t know if they played five minutes or 80 minutes, they put in the game amount of effort. They helped a lot and that’s a tradition in high school, we tell the senior to be a monitor to the younger boys on the field and in school.”
Shah showed lots of promise filling in for Kup, making a handful of saves, including a diving save in the second half.
“Jamin is a kid that has improved a lot in one year. He normally plays JV but got called up and did a great job,” added Horta, “He’ll teach the younger kids that you can get to where you want if you just work hard. He’s a great role model.”
Horta, who also coaches youth soccer in Rocky Hill, believes his team just need to get comfortable on the field that the results will start to roll in, which was evidenced by a 4-0 victory over Maloney last Friday, giving the Terriers their first win under Horta.
Newington enters this week at 4-1-1 after a convincing victory at Platt and a draw against Middletown last week. Diogo Caetano (2), Trey Guest, Dan Ellis, Amaral, Campbell, and Stair each scored goals in the win over Platt.
“It’s one game at a time. There’s not one game that is more important than another game. We just try and keep the same mentality, it’s just good to be back on the field,” stated Brunetti, “I think we try and keep that approach the same, and that excitement level is there this year. We’re very thankful that we have these games considering the circumstances.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin