A cruel ending to a great season for the Fitch boys' soccer team
Groton – We forget sometimes that the unscripted drama that makes sports great can manifest itself in darker ways, too. Such as what's befallen Fitch in the past week. The Falcons must be wondering which of the soccer spirits they've offended.
Fitch's season — its best season in years — ended Wednesday at Poquonnock Plains Park in the same cruel way the league championship game ended last week: on penalty kicks.
In rotten weather, too.
Against a team who it really shouldn't have even been playing this early in the Class L state tournament.
A primer: The game against Stonington last week happened in the driving rain. Wednesday happened in January chill, suggesting global warming took a sick day. And Pomperaug? The South-West Conference champs were a 12 seed because they had to forfeit two games earlier this season because of unspecified rules violations. Pomperaug should have had a better record and different seeding.
That's an inordinate amount of bad luck right there, on top of the penalty kicks that happened almost metaphorically in the sunlight's slow fade, symbolizing what would become of Fitch's season.
"You don't make sense of it. It's a tough way to end the season and a tough way to end a game," Fitch coach Jay Wolfradt said. "I know what Paul (Stonington coach Paul deCastro) said after our game last week: that it would make his team better and our team better. I thought it was destiny that it came down to penalty kicks. We could go back and salvage what we left out at East Lyme last week. It didn't go our way again. There's a reason for that. We'll figure that out."
Except that Wolfradt may need Dr. Phil and Dr. Freud to help.
Or maybe in a few days, the shapes and forms of a really good season become clearer. The Falcons won 12 games and a division title. Several good players return next year. This is a program now. It's just hard to keep score of progress when the scoreboards don't necessarily reflect as much.
"At some point, we'll appreciate what we did this season," Wolfradt said. "We still have a very young team. Still rely on sophomores and juniors, even though we are losing some great seniors. We only scored 21 goals last year. This year, we scored close to 60. We told them all week there would be times in this game that would be uncomfortable. You have to perform when it's not comfortable. We had some opportunities and just didn't do it."
The good news: Soccer is a thing again at Fitch. Wasn't always that way, at least not when Wolfradt started. How could a school the size of Fitch not field a competitive team? Nobody's asking that anymore.
"It's the work of the community, going way back to when the Groton Soccer Club started to make soccer more appealing to these guys," Wolfradt said. "Now they see what we're doing. We've gotten to know them and they've gotten to know us. It's not just me. It's the guys that play club soccer, the guys out here all summer long getting ready, knowing you can't just pick up a ball in August. There are summer leagues now. Playing the right way, not just going to kick a ball. Things like, 'We have to do it this way because that's the system the high school runs.'"
So maybe now that soccer is a thing, the town can perhaps reward the kids and the others who care for their diligence. Like maybe get a scoreboard at Poquonnock Plains Park for soccer? Forget about turf or anything like that. The yelping of the alarmists in Groton has always been at decibel levels that could rival Dick Vitale. So can we start with a scoreboard?
Some of the kids on Pomperaug said it was first game they played all year on real grass. And without a scoreboard. Certainly, there isn't such rampant destitution in Groton?
Meanwhile, the soccer Falcons have an offseason to ponder the wouldas, shouldas and couldas. And maybe look forward to a reversal of fate a year from now.
"Pomperaug is the kind of team we want to play," Wolfradt said "We think we're at that point now where we're ready to play anybody."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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Thanks to Brian for sharing his story.