They say one of the hardest things to accomplish in the field of athletic competition is to repeat as champions. So much is stacked against a champion, not to mention the target of their back that looms larger as the next season progresses.
Even some of the greatest of teams have fallen by the wayside not even qualifying for the post season while others make that quick exit leaving a feeling of what might have been.
The Plainville boys soccer team certainly had things stacked against them after winning their first ever state championship last year and graduating 10 seniors. But there they were on Nov. 19, facing off against second ranked (13-0-2) Stonington in the Class M semifinals.
The No. 19 Blue Devils (9-6-1) fell short of the goal of playing for a state championship, but it certainly didn’t fall short of expectations. Plainville saw its season come to an end in a 4-0 loss to Stonington but could leave the field with heads held high, knowing that they played their best when it mattered the most.
They proved that last year’s run was no fluke. But the Blue Devils have never been a fluke during Tim Brown’s 11-season career as head coach. Plainville doesn’t usually come into the fray as a high seed—in fact the record shows that they sometimes get in as one of the last teams to qualify—but when the lights burn brighter, Brown’s teams always seems to flip a switch.
The Blue Devils play their best when it matters the most. Over the past 11 seasons, Plainville has compiled a 23-11 mark in state tournament play, reaching the semifinals three times, the quarterfinals three times and winning the school’s first ever state championship last year.
Following a tough 1-0 loss to Bristol Eastern in September, Brown was asked to access his team this season. “We certainly have the talent and the ability,” he said. “It’s a process, and we are working on that process. If we are not preparing to play for a state championship, then what are we doing here?”
What may have seemed like an odd response for a team that started 0-4 on the season was actually a foretelling of a team about to rise to the top. Plainville went on to win nine of the next 10 games. Just like that what seemed lost was now found.
Goal keepers senior Joey Raimondi and sophomore Brennan Staubley spearheaded a defense led by seniors Brady Beausoleil and Jens Wadehn along with juniors Tanner and Tucker Rau.
Seniors Jacob Pierce, Reno Lausier and Nathan Cyr along with Joe Page and Mike Stanczykiewicz helped to give Plainville the leadership experience they needed to get through the rough spots.
The Blue Devils knocked off 14th ranked Aerospace (10-5-1), 3-0, in the opening round of the Class M tournament. On Nov. 13, Plainville came away with an impressive, 6-1 victory over No. 3 Nonnewaug (14-1-1) to advance to the quarterfinals.
It was against the Chiefs that the Blue Devils showed how they can simply take over a game, led by junior Patrick Gryczewski (5 goals). For the second time this season, Gryczewski used the final seconds on the clock to put one in the net dropping one in (with just 8 seconds left in the half) to build a 2-0 cushion.
“They give us 80 minutes, and we intend on using all 80 minutes,” Brown said about Gryczewski’s last second heroics. “Patrick is a special kind of player and in my opinion one of the best in the state and he showed that in this game.”
Tanner Rau added a goal and senior Logan Miller added three assists to spark the offense. Freshman Jordan Torres put pressure on Nonnewaug throughout the game controlling the outside of the Plainville attack.
“Logan and Patrick are a solid one-two punch for us,” said Brown. “Gavin and Trevor are young players who have really come on and given us quality play and freshman Jordan Torres did a great job cutting off their attack.”
The Blue Devils faced a familiar foe in 6th ranked Granby (13-2-1) on Nov. 15, pulling out a 1-0 win to advance0 to the semifinals.
Sophomore Gavin Bravado and freshman Trevor Rau opened up the lanes and senior Luis Arango sent a goal to the back of the net for his second game winning goal of the season.
Plainville again will graduate 10 seniors from this year’s squad, but don’t count on the Blue Devils to enter some kind of rebuilding phase. The team will return nine juniors. They will form the next senior class with the same expectation: compete for a state championship.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.