East Hartford boys' varsity soccer earns post-season berth

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Nov. 4, 2013
Junior co-captain Eddy Perez approaches the ball. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
Junior co-captain Eddy Perez approaches the ball. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

"Intensity, possession and finish" are the three simple, yet powerful words that East Hartford High School head coach Mike Vendetti presented to the boys’ varsity soccer team at the beginning of the year as a mantra for the upcoming season. “They bought into that and it’s real,” said Vendetti. “If we come out with intensity, we possess the ball and we finish it; that’s what wins ballgames.”

And win they did. The boys won eight games this year as part of an 8-7-1 overall record and qualified for the state tournament. They finished third in the CCC North, at 7-6-1, and missed the inaugural CCC tournament by just three points.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” said Vendetti. “They stepped up this year. They took to the challenge of playing up to their talent.  We had a couple of bumps in the road, and they really have persevered.”

Two of the teams that they lost to in the first meeting of the season – East Catholic and Manchester – they beat in the second half.
“They recognized their mistakes,” said Vendetti. “They came around and they made the adjustments, and that was key. I told these guys that good players react, great players adjust; so they’ve really responded to that.”

Another lift for the program was playing perennial state power Glastonbury to a 1-1 draw on the Tomahawks' turf in the fourth game of the season. “I think it was a wake-up call for them that they can beat anybody and they can do well against anybody in the state,” said Vendetti. “They realized how good they really were and I think as talented as they are, I don’t think they really understood how well they can play together to do that damage against Glastonbury.”

The team finished the first half of the season with two wins to bump their record to 4-3-1. The second half of the season started with a loss to New Britain and then victories in rematches against East Catholic and Manchester. The team then hit a three-game losing skid before pulling out victories in their final two games of the regular-season against Weaver and South Windsor. 

“I’m really trying to build a positive program for these kids,” said Vendetti.  “And it’s not just me; it’s my staff and it’s the kids... I check with their teachers on their grades. They know I’m in their corner, but they also know that I have high expectations for them and that’s part of the program.”

Vendetti said the top players this season have been sophomore Donovan Harris, who earned All-Conference honors, senior co-captain Kaleb DesVignes, with eight goals, junior Sharif Djibo, with seven and sophomore Khalid Rose, with seven.  Overall, the team scored a record 40 goals during the regular season. The previous mark was 36 set back in 1987.

In net, Arvinda Singh had two clean sheets and saved the only two penalty kicks against the Hornets this season.  Vendetti praised the play of the senior keeper who is just in his second year playing goalie. “He’s been a brilliant surprise for us,” said Vendetti.  “He’s become a leader on the team and he’s played big in big games.”

Vendetti said he has also been surprised with the cohesiveness of the team. “I wasn’t expecting them to be so close, and I don’t know if it’s part of our success or the leaders, but the camaraderie is there which I haven’t seen in the past,” said Vendetti.

The boys enter the Class LL state tournament as the #22 seed. The first round is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the site of the lower seed.  Vendetti said the key to success in the postseason is to, “keep it simple.” 

“They all know what their job is and as long as we do that we’ll beat anybody in the state, hands down,” said Vendetti.

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