East Granby boys' soccer coach dies in car crash
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
East Granby - posted Thu., Nov. 8, 2012
The members of the East Granby High School boys' soccer team were enjoying a weekend away from the pitch, relaxing and resting up for a week of practice and preparation for their first-round Class S state tournament game, when they received tragic news. Four-year head coach Chris Pettee was killed in a car accident in the early morning of Nov. 4.
Despite their shock and grief, the Crusaders decided to lace up their boots and take the pitch in honor of their late coach; they needed to begin preparing for a state tournament run that he had set them up for.
“It hasn’t hit most of us yet. This week is an ongoing process, and we're not over it, but getting out there on the field has definitely helped a lot of us,” said senior co-captain Noah Fersch. “Later on in the week, when the wake and funeral come, it will probably hit us more.”
Pettee, 29, died in a crash on I-684 in North Castle, N.Y. New York State Police investigator Joseph Becerra said Pettee’s car struck another vehicle from behind in the far left lane and then crossed two lanes before rolling down an embankment, noting that speed was a factor in the accident. Pettee’s car was split into three pieces when emergency personnel arrived on the scene, he said. According to Becerra, the 30-year-old driver of the other car crashed into the median and was treated at a local hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., for minor injuries and was released later that morning.
“He taught us how to play with heart, and play like men,” senior co-captain Andrew Nigro said of Pettee. “We learned to take everything seriously and take nothing for granted. He really loved this team.”
Pettee’s devotion to the team was evident in his 90-minute commute from New York to East Granby. Pettee made the long commute practically every day after receiving a promotion by the New York Sports Club from its West Hartford location to its White Plains location in 2011. “It showed a lot of commitment on his part and made us want to play our best for him every day,” Nigro said.
Under the direction of Pettee, the Crusaders compiled a 9-6-1 overall record for the season on way to a sixth-place finish in the North Central Connecticut and a 12 seed in the Class S state tournament. He took over the team after a 3-12-1 season and over the course of his four years tallied a 36-25-3 overall record, while guiding the team to four state tournament berths, including two Class S quarterfinal tournament appearances in the last three years.
“He really built up the program. He brought in a different attitude towards the program; now we go onto the field expecting to win,” Fersch said. “If we lose, we're mad we didn’t win; we don’t accept it if we lose 2-1 and played the other team hard. He turned us into winners on and off the field. We’re all much better people and players for knowing him.”
East Granby’s first-round state tournament match-up with Stafford had been moved to Saturday so the team can attend Pettee’s funeral and wake. Proceeds from the game’s ticket sales will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Pettee’s name.
“It’s more important than soccer, it’s about life and developing yourself, and Chris instilled that in them,” said Athletic Director Robert Paskiewicz. “It’s all about finishing whatever you started in life, and these kids will finish it in his honor.”