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    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    Stonington’s Fidrych made a definite impact during his UConn soccer career

    UConn senior men’s soccer player Tyler Fidrych, a 2020 Stonington High School graduate, saw limited action in his career with the Huskies but was named team captain this season for his energy and effort. Fidrych led Stonington to an unbeaten season in 2019, including the Class M state championship. (Photo courtesy of UConn Athletics)
    Stonington graduate Tyler Fidrych was named captain for the UConn men’s soccer team this season. Said Fidrych of the honor: “It just means a lot to me. I’ve always loved the game. One thing me and coach (Paul) deCastro in high school and a lot of the guys had in common, we just had so much passion for the game. We loved playing it and we loved watching it. We loved talking about it.” (Photo courtesy of UConn Athletics)
    Stonington High School senior midfielder Tyler Fidrych earned Class M all-state and All-New England honors as he led the Bears on an unbeaten journey that culminated with the Class M state championship in 2019. Fidrych was named The Day's All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year. (Day File Photo)

    Unsure of his future plans, Tyler Fidrych cherished every practice, every game, every moment to be with his UConn soccer teammates this past week.

    It’s been an emotional time for Fidrych, whose life has revolved around the sport since growing up on the Stonington soccer fields.

    “Every day I’m trying to soak it in,” Fidrych said this week. “You just don’t know when is the last day that I’m going to be tying up the boots and playing with the boys. It’s hard to believe, to be honest. I can’t really wrap my head around it.

    “I was talking to my dad about it, it almost feels like my childhood is coming to an end and I’ve got to grow up and roll up my sleeves and put my big boy shoes on. It’s just a game that I love and that I’ll always love. I’m going to play for as long as I can walk, so that will never change.”

    UConn’s season came to an end Thursday night with a 2-0 loss to Georgetown in the Big East Conference tournament semifinals in Maryland.

    Fidrych, who’ll graduate in May, has two years of eligibility remaining but hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll return.

    What he’s accomplished during his collegiate career can’t be measured in a box score. He saw limited action in six games this season and appeared in only 10 games in his career.

    He’s a shining example, however, of what a good teammate and respected leader is all about.

    He didn’t let a lack of consistent playing time negatively affect the energy, enthusiasm and competitive effort that he brought every day to training sessions.

    “At the end of the day, playing time wasn’t my No. 1 concern,” Fidrych said. “I wanted to go somewhere that was challenging me and make me the best soccer player that I could be at the end of my four years in college and I also had a chance to win championships at. At the end of the day, if you know anything about me, you know I want to win championships.”

    His teammates and coaching staff showed their respect and appreciation for Fidrych last summer by voting him one of the team captains.

    Coach Chris Gbandi called Fidrych with the good news.

    Receiving that honor will forever be a career highlight for Fidrych.

    “It just means a lot to me,” Fidyrch said. “I’ve always loved the game. One thing me and coach (Paul) deCastro in high school and a lot of the guys had in common, we just had so much passion for the game. We loved playing it and we loved watching it. We loved talking about it.

    “Coming to a program like UConn, I wanted to do all I could to help this team win. I wanted to have the best four years possible. Maybe that was something that guys saw, just how much it meant to me and the passion that I have every day.”

    Fidrych has always been all about the team.

    From his early soccer days, he formed a tight bond on the pitch with his childhood friends that continued to strengthen through his high school years.

    During his remarkable Stonington career, Fidyrch earned all-state and All-New England honors, broke the school record for career assists (65) and set single-season records for assists (34) and points (84). He was named The Day’s 2019 All-Area Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.

    But his best memories come from time spent with teammates during long bus rides on game days, practices on a cool fall afternoon and just hanging out together.

    Their camaraderie played a significant role in Stonington winning three Eastern Connecticut Conference division and tournament titles, as well as the 2019 Class M state championship, capping an unbeaten season. He was selected Most Valuable Player of the championship game.

    Instead of choosing a college soccer program where he’d play a starting role, he opted to go to UConn, a Division I program he grew up following and which had family ties. His grandfather played baseball at UConn and his grandmother also went to school there.

    Despite the challenges he faced during his career, Fidrych couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. He never considered entering the transfer portal and finding a new soccer home.

    “It was just an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down,” Fidrych said. “And I wanted to give it everything that I could. Obviously, I knew it was going to be a challenge. It taught me a lot about patience and paying your dues.

    “My parents raised you’re not always going to get who you want in terms of coaches. … They always taught me to put your head down, keep working hard and show them on the field, let your play do the talking. Take advantage of every opportunity that you get. That’s how I’ve rode out my whole UConn career.

    “It hasn’t been easy and it’s been frustrating at times. At the same time, I love the program. I love the people involved with it. I love my teammates. That’s honestly been one of the main things that has kept me going, the love that I have for everyone in the locker room and spending time with them every day.”

    Fidrych takes pride in helping the program improve from when he arrived in Storrs, building team culture and chemistry.

    The Huskies took a step forward, finishing 9-8-1 overall and beating St. John’s in the quarterfinals for their first Big East tourney win since 2012.

    “We’re starting to finally make that turn,” Fidrych said.

    A business management major, Fidrych will have some decisions to make about his future in the upcoming months.

    One thing he knows for sure is that soccer will always be a part of his life. He has a strong interest in coaching.

    Going to graduate school is an option.

    “There’s a lot of things that I’m juggling right now,” Fidrych said.

    Playing competitive soccer will be hard for him to give up. When he’s not playing, he’s watching the beautiful game, especially his favorite team, Arsenal.

    “I love going out there every day and competing with the guys. It’s something that I’m really going to miss. I don’t know if I’m ready to give it up, to be quite honest with you. I just don’t know what my opportunities are going forward here.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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