Eagles seeking tourney berth

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Fri., Oct. 21, 2011
Tolland senior Josh McVeigh makes an off-balance play during the Eagles' 1-1 push with Fermi on Oct. 11. Photos by Steve Smith.
Tolland senior Josh McVeigh makes an off-balance play during the Eagles' 1-1 push with Fermi on Oct. 11. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Tolland boys varsity soccer team is on the cusp of post-season play, with a record of 4-3-4 (at press time), but looking to close out the regular season on a high note. The conference, which is a mix of class LL, L and M teams, is presenting the Eagles with a variety of challenges that it is facing as a cohesive unit.

Coach Jim Leahy said his goalkeeper, Eric Venezia, is anchoring the team, but the rest of the squad is playing consistently well, without a standout. “The nice thing about this team is that on the field, we have a bunch of guys who are athletic and can play,” he said, adding that with four players out, including some of their better scorers, the team was able to win over Wethersfield, and force a stalemate over Fermi on Oct. 11, despite losing to the Falcons earlier in the season.

“A lot of times, on the high school level, you don't have that kind of depth,” he said. “Usually, if you get a couple of key guys hurt, you're in trouble.”

Leahy said the team has had its share of games where it falls behind, and then the players lose their focus, but the 2-1 win over Wethersfield on Oct. 7 was an example of what the team can do if they stay with it for a full 80 minutes.

The Eagles defense, the coach said, is well-organized, but the whole team is working on possession in practice. “I think we need to learn how to keep the ball more and create better opportunities,” he said, “and then we need to put the ball in the goal. We can't make it easy on opposing goalies.”

Leahy said the team is building confidence at the right time, and going deep into the tournament is a possibility. “We know that we can compete with anybody,” he said. “The question is, can we beat them? I think the Wethersfield game puts us in a position where the players know they can play with anybody in the state.”

Leahy added that the games against the L and LL squads are good preparation. “We have the benefit of playing in the conference with those schools,” he said, “but at the end of the day, we're a class M school, and while there are great class M schools, we'll be well-prepared for the tournament, should we get there.”

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