Seniors dominate Wolverine soccer team

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
Griswold's Brian Beckwith (15) moves the ball down the field with help from teammate Zach Nute (3). Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Griswold's Brian Beckwith (15) moves the ball down the field with help from teammate Zach Nute (3). Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Griswold High School boys’ soccer coach Vin Laraia is leading a team rich in experience. “It’s just about all seniors on the team this year,” he said. “We have two sophomores and a junior, and we’re going to carry five freshmen. I think we’re going to graduate 12 or 13 this year.”

Last season, as juniors, those players helped take the team all the way to the state semifinals, only to lose in a heartbreaker to Bethel on an 11th-hour goal. “We missed [the finals] by six minutes,” Laraia said.

But the newbies on the team this season aren’t unseasoned, either. Griswold has an active youth soccer program that has been a proving ground for future high school Wolverines. “The freshmen have all come up [through that program] and played in the under-14 travel team. They’re good players,” said Laraia.

The team faces a tough slate in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, and Laraia said he’s arranged the scrimmage schedule to get his boys ready. After a rocky, scoreless start in the first half of their first scrimmage against the Ledyard Colonels Sept. 8, the Wolverines came back to score two goals in the second half. “This was a large school we were playing, and we held our own,” Laraia said of the match-up with Ledyard. “I purposely tried to get scrimmages against better teams.

”After practicing against teammates in the pre-season, scrimmages give the coach a chance to see how his players perform and react in different situations, Laraia said. And it’s a good way to check out the freshmen and consider who might move up to varsity. “It’s just a feeling-out process, to see who I’m going to play where,” he said.

The disappointing first half may have been a wake-up call for the Wolverines, Laraia said. “I think they’re a little down right now,” he said after the scrimmage. “But they understand that this is just a scrimmage, like a practice. It doesn’t count.”

Griswold faced a scrimmage against Windham Tech the following day, and a four-game tournament on Saturday. Their first game of the regular season was played against Bacon Academy on Sept. 13.

Laraia said his mainstays include defensive player Russel Sullivan, Nick Lagace, Zachary Nute and Ryan Lincoln. “They’re pretty much my motivators,” he said.

Laraia is in his eighth season at the helm of the Wolverines, assisted by junior varsity coach Justin Saltojanes. Among Laraia’s seniors is his son, Kevin Laraia. Both Kevin and his older brother, Christopher, played for Griswold under their dad’s tutelage. “They’re a big reason why I’m here,” the coach said. “I coached Christopher for four years and I’m coaching Kevin for four years.”


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