Vikings follow Goolsbey's lead to 96-73 win over rival Falcons
Groton — Eain Goolsbey has always been the quintessential team guy at East Lyme High School. This fall, for instance, he was the No. 7 runner on the Vikings' Class MM state championship cross country team, not an all-star but just as important a contributor as anyone else.
Goolsbey, a senior, is now a captain of the East Lyme swimming team, which remained unbeaten in the Eastern Connecticut Conference following Friday afternoon's 96-73 victory over the Fitch/Stonington/Ledyard/Norwich Tech cooperative team.
Because Goolsbey has been in the trenches with these guys for so long, he's been given a great deal of responsibility by coach Rob Bouchey in terms of communicating with his teammates.
"I think every season's different. He has the experience of this being his fourth one," Bouchey said. "He got a lot of pressure from me as far as rallying the troops. I try not to be a negative coach ... I can pull him aside and let him take some of the locker room talk, some of the conversations about 'there's always more to give.'
"His younger brother is on the team now. These guys know him. He's able to share their confidence in a different way."
Goolsbey won three events in addition Friday, as the Vikings pushed their record to 7-2 overall, 5-0 in the ECC following their first regular-season meeting against their conference rival Falcons.
Goolsbey took the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 55.18 seconds), the 500 freestyle (5:19.15) and swam a leg on the first-place 400 freestyle relay team, joining Jack Zhang, Bobby Hahn and Jack Mucciarone in clocking in at 3:43.73. Mucciarone also won the 50 freestyle (23.70) and the 100 freestyle (52.75).
"Today was a big test for this team," said Goolsbey, the defending ECC champ in the 500 free. "We've come a long way (this season). Everyone's grown and matured so much. It changes every year, but it's good to let everyone know (the tradition) is going to continue, especially with the lost seniors; it's good to make last year's seniors proud."
Goolsbey shares the captain's duty with diver Ben Prouty, the defending ECC champion who recently signed a letter of intent to compete at Division I Bryant University.
They lead a team of young, yet talented Vikings swimmers, including Zhang, a junior, who is the defending ECC champ in the 100 butterfly, and Mucciarone and Hahn, who are sophomores. East Lyme was 11-0 overall last year, 10-0 in the ECC, but lost back-to-back nonconference dual meets early this season to Amity and Brookfield.
"When I started off, I was just one of the freshmen on the team," Goolsbey said. "Now I have to be a leader to the freshmen, show them what it takes to win. We have a lot of young stars."
It was the first loss, meanwhile, for Fitch (2-1, 2-1).
The meet was tied 31-31 after four events. Fitch opened with a victory by AJ Murko, John Marcolina, Keegan Reck and Joe Vignato in the 200 medley relay, followed by Goolsbey in the 200 free, Fitch's Marcolina in the 200 individual medley (2:09.64) and East Lyme's Mucciarone in the 50 free.
But after the first break, Marcolina — last year's ECC Swimmer of the Meet — cramped up in the 100 butterfly and was disqualified. Soon thereafter, Fitch's Pat Nowak, The Day's All-Area Swimmer of the Year last season, dropped out of the meet due to a lingering back injury which has limited his participation.
That allowed East Lyme to win three straight events, with Zhang in the 100 fly (57.91), Mucciarone in the 100 free and Goolsbey in the 500 free, giving the Vikings a 61-48 lead. East Lyme also got wins from Eric Gu in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.03) and the 400 free relay team.
Fitch added wins by the 200 free relay team of Max Cartier, Reck, Vignato and Marcolina and from Murko in the backstroke (1:01.59).
"Last year (Nowak) was our stud. He was the guy were leaning on. It's tough when you lose that. We're trying to get through that, but it's tough because we don't feel the pain," Fitch coach Ken Berg said. "(Marcolina) is a hard-working guy; he's a monster ... blame me for putting him in the stupid 200 IM before that."
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