Rocky Hill's #14 Endi Bregu controls the ball as #7 Braeden Murawski looks on
Rocky Hill boys’ soccer hosted a tournament game for the first time since 2015 and went toe-to-toe with an experienced team from Plainville.
Despite dominating the ball in the second half, the Terriers fell to the Blue Devils (1-0) as a first-half goal from the visitors proved to be the difference last Tuesday (Nov. 9) at RHHS.
Second year head coach Paul Horta said it was just another building block for his program, “Plainville is here on a regular basis and these [tournament] games are different. They did exactly what I thought they would do. They were hungry, they were aggressive and we were tentative and the event was a little too much for our kids in the first half.”
Plainville attacked from the opening whistle, controlling the ball in their end and firing shots at Rocky Hill’s senior goalie Jaimin Shah.
Shah made a handful of saves before Plainville scored the tiebreaker when junior Trevor Rau received a beautiful lead pass from senior captain Gavin Bravado before blasting a shot into the back of the net at the 25th minute of the first half.
“At halftime we reminded them that talent-wise we are good enough to play with them,” added Horta. “Our inexperience showed in the first half but in the second half we played about as well as we could. We had a couple of chances, but that’s soccer. It comes down to if you can capitalize.”
Rau’s goal would prove to be the game’s only score in what turned out to be the final game at the Rocky Hill High School for 10 seniors.
Yet the seniors and their teammates didn’t go down without a fight and controlled the second half tempo.
Senior captains Massimo Cianci and Jason Moleiro led an offensive attack that outshot Plainville 3-to-1 over the final forty minutes.
In the opening moments of the second half, the two captains worked a give-and-go near the goal, but Plainville’s stout defense rose to the occasion and negated the shot attempt.
Later, senior Braeden Murawski had four corner kick opportunities, Austin Murawski had two shots blocked, and Cianci was just off the mark on a header attempt.
In the closing minutes, Moleiro was high on a penalty kick and had another swallowed up by Plainville goalie Josh Elliotte.
As the closing seconds ticked away Moleiro fired up one last long desperation attempt that was caught by Elliotte.
As the team walked off the field, the emotion was high and Horta gave the team one last postgame talk.
“I told them that as a coach it’s my privilege to coach you. They are part of that foundation and that one day when we hang that banner they’ll be back and see what they contributed. But it’s hard right now,” said Horta, who took over the team following a three-win season in 2019. “No matter what we do results-wise, we carry ourselves a certain way and the seniors took that to another level. We only had three yellow cards all year and we played with character. They take the good with the bad and I love them for that.”
Horta, who took over prior to last year’s COVID-shortened season, previously coached youth soccer in town and has known most of the players since they first started playing soccer, saying “There’s something special about these seniors. They changed the culture here.”
He added that Shah is an example of someone who represents the program, “He worked so hard in the offseason; he trained every day. He’s poured his heart and soul into it. He had a great year and he’s a better human being than a goalie.”
As the coach walked off the field, he hugged his captains one more time. He credited them with laying the foundation, “I’m a better coach when they are on the field. They are the first at practice, last to leave. They are always picking up their teammates and they lead by example.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin