By John Goralski
It didn’t take long for the last year’s Knights to question their season goals. They lost their goaltender for almost a month. The scoring didn’t come, and the losses began to pile up. The first win came in the opening week, The second came in the season finale.
Fortunately, winning isn’t the only thing that Coach Dave Yanosy remembers about his teams.
“It was definitely a tough year,” he said about Southington’s 2-12-2 record in 2012. “Despite the fact that our record wasn’t great, we battled to the end. Our best game was the last game of the season. It all seemed to come together in that 4-0 win against New Britain. Unfortunately, it was too late for us, but I was proud of the way that they finished the season.”
That was the message that Yanosy left for this year’s seniors—hard work and dedication is all that concerns him. That turned into the theme for the off-season and the mission this fall.
“The only thing you can do in these situations is to buckle down and work as hard as you can,” said the coach. “These guys did a really good job over the summer. They were consistent with their conditioning, and they all came into camp ready to go. So far it’s looked pretty promising, and that’s the main thing. When the going gets tough, you have to dig in your heels and work as hard as you can.”
It already feels different as the Knights charge into their fall season. For the first time in his career, he’s named senior captains. He still expects leadership across the senior class, but accountability and commitment have become the cornerstone as Southington begins to rebuild.
Co-captains Dan Connolly and Jared DeFeo have settled into central roles as the team’s midfielders. Together, they’ll control the action on the field.
“Those two will be looked upon to provide leadership and run the show,” Yanosy said. “They are both very good in the air. I pulled Jared back from the forward position and Danny moved up from defense. I think that experience up front and in the back will help them gel at midfield and give us what we need to have success.”
Up and down the lineup, Yanosy will rely upon his seniors for leadership. The Knights return 11 seniors with one common goal. Yanosy sees this as his team’s strength on opening day.
“They’re confident, and they’re poised to make it back to the tournament,” said the coach. “They’re a fun group to be around, and I think they want it. They’ve had a couple of tough season, but our seniors have shown some pretty good leadership early on.”
But how will they adjust? That’s the biggest question. Can they overcome the injuries that plague teams in the fall? Will they be able to adjust to different styles of play and shift gears for different challenges? Yanosy said that they have to be ready for anything that’s thrown at them because Southington’s schedule is not for the weak of heart, and their conference is one of the best in the state.
Farmington is the defending Class L champion. Hall and Conard have proven tough in every season. Simsbury is a perennial power, while NW Catholic and New Britain have grown into powerful programs over the past few seasons. Even Newington has made a name for themselves in recent years, including a postseason upset over Glastonbury last fall that has Yanosy worried about this year’s rivalry.
“Our league is a Who’s Who in terms of soccer programs in the state of Connecticut,” said the coach. “There won’t be a single game on our schedule that we can circle as a definite win. We’re going to have to bring it every single day. We want to make it to the tournament. We have to get those 13 points—that magical number—with any combination of wins and ties. That’s our main goal.”
Last year scoring was a problem as Southington managed just 13 goals over 16 games, and the Knights were shutout by nine different opponents. Senior scorers Sean Conway and Pat Straub should lead a good supporting cast of underclassmen like junior Bryan Doyle and sophomores Andrew Muskatello and Erik Schneider.
“They’re young, but talented,” said Yanosy. “Sean and Pat are our seniors, but the rest of them are young and inexperienced. If we can get some positive minutes and positive contributions from everybody, it should really help us out.”
Once again, Southington will rely upon their defense to keep them in games while the offense develops. Last fall, only three teams managed more than three goals against the Knights. Southington earned three shutouts to secure two wins and a tie.
This year, the Knights will be bigger and stronger than ever. Alex Queen will tower over opponents as the team’s sweeper. Mike Aylett gives the defense a strong presence in the middle with Mike Rogalski as the unit’s vocal leader. Brian Falco and Brian Topper are competing for the starting position in goal, so depth should not be a problem this season if injuries strike the net.
“Our back line is a pretty good size, so we should be tough for teams to handle as long as we stay organized and do what we need to do,” said Yanosy. “We’re going to look a little bit more like that team from 2009 or 2010. We’ll be a little bit bigger and more physical. We’ll be a little bit more direct than in past years. That should promote more goal scoring opportunities, and it should be fun to watch.”
So strap in and get ready for the battle. Yanosy expects to be there when dust settles on the regular season, and in the postseason anything can happen.
“They’re a fun group to be around, and I think the added depth and hard work has them poised to get back to the postseason,” said the coach. “Those are our keys to success, and it has me very excited.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at email@example.com.