Warriors Take First Defeat, Bounce Back with a Win
Junior Jake Burdick and the Valley boys’ soccer squad played a pair of games and had win and a loss between the two contests. Burdick has been a key offensive player for the Warriors and supplied two goals in their win over Portland on Oct. 17. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Simon Partyka and the Warriors scored a 4-1 home win over Portland on Oct. 17. Partyka scored Valley’s fourth and final goal in the contest. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Michael Kollmer is part of a steadily improving Warriors’ defensive unit that has a 4-1 record on the year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional boys’ soccer squad is approaching the halfway point of the season, and the Warriors are shaping up to be one of the top teams in the Shoreline Conference. After last week’s action, Valley moved to a 4-1 record on the season, which put them behind only two undefeated teams in Old Lyme and Cromwell.
The Warriors played two games last week and came away with a split. Valley took its first loss of the season in a 5-0 road defeat against Old Saybrook on Oct. 15 but rebounded with a 4-1 home victory over Portland on Oct. 17.
Head Coach Mick Fearon feels his team is starting to make some headway in the conference even though the Warriors still have plenty to iron out to be the best squad they can be. It’s good to be part of upper echelon of Shoreline clubs.
“We’re near the top. I’m sure Old Saybrook is right there with us, but they have the head-to-head record after they won,” said Coach Fearon. “There’s quite a good group of five or six teams up near the top of the conference putting distance between themselves and the other teams.”
The Warriors were taken by surprise by an Old Saybrook squad that scored three goals in the first 15 minutes of the match. After that, it was hard for Valley to find it’s footing, and the Rams were able to cruise to the win.
“If it were a boxing match, they threw the haymaker right at the start. They came out really strong in the first 15 minutes. Out of their first four shots they had three goals,” said Coach Fearon. “To their credit, they played really well. Games like that happen. You just have to move on.”
Two days later, the Warriors had the opportunity to get back in the win column with a home contest against Portland. Valley put a goal in the books around the 10-minute mark when junior Jake Burdick sent a cross from the corner which senior Andrew Sherman put into the back of the net to make it 1-0. Burdick added an unassisted goal in the 21st minute. Burdick intercepted an errant shot, got past his defender, and put the ball into the lower corner to make it 2-0.
Coach Fearon said that Burdick has been getting a lot of attention as one of Valley’s premier scorers, and for the Warriors to stay successful, they must prove that others on the squad can shoulder the scoring load, as well. Fearon believes that Valley has been doing a good job of that as of late.
“Playing in the Shoreline games, all the boys know each other. Other teams are going to key on Jake a bit. You get to know kids over the years, and they’ve seen him,” said Fearon. “We can’t defer to him all the time. Now it’s up to other boys to take it upon themselves to say that they’re good players and can take some of the pressure off of Jake. We’re starting to see that.”
In the second half, some other players put some shots in the back of the net for Valley. The offense put together some good chances to score, and in the 46th minute, junior Tucker Burr controlled the ball at the top of the box and shot it into the corner of the goal to make it 3-0. After that, junior Simon Patryka intercepted the ball and was able to turn it around for the Warriors’ final goal to make it 4-0. Portland was eventually able to score a goal nearing the end of the match, but it was too little too late.
Coach Fearon was glad for his team to get back on the pitch so soon after the tough Old Saybrook loss. Fearon thought his student-athletes took the coaching staff’s adjustments to heart, and combined with overall better play, the Warriors came away with the victory.
“The biggest thing we stressed heading into the Portland game was that our marking was not good, and we gave them a lot of space. They took advantage knocking balls into the forwards, and they scored on three long-range shots. We can’t allow shots from distance without a challenge,” said Fearon. “Another adjustment was to try to get the ball moving quicker. Even in the games we won, we were holding onto the ball too much. Against Portland, we were better at moving the ball. When the ball is moving quickly, it’s harder for the defenders to stop the ball. When the ball hangs with someone, it’s going to get stopped.”
Coach Fearon has seen the offense improving as the team plays together more. Players like Burr and Sherman are helping Valley give different looks up front and in the offensive side of the midfield.
“Tucker Burr has really come along. He struggled with an injury last year. He’s been holding midfield and has been moving forward,” Fearon said. “We just got Andrew Sherman back. I think he’s quite a confident player, and it was good to see him up front playing this week.”
As far the defense, Fearon feels good with his array of players like senior Keenan Pindar, junior Evan Salbinski, and sophomores Michael Kollmer and Sam Hutchinson. To get even better, the defense has to be a bit more vocal on the field and players need to be assertive with each other.
“Defensively, we’ve got a pretty solid unit. I think now, it’s for them to work more on the communication. We can’t have two guys looking at the ball, we need someone to say they’re taking the ball,” Fearon said. “It was good against Portland, but against Saybrook, we didn’t really stop them from passing balls to midfield and to the forwards. We were a bit strung out. We’ve mostly been playing well and closing down players.”
As the season goes on, Coach Fearon has seen his team begin to round into form. Without preseason scrimmages, a lot of the team is learning how to play with each other during games that matter. All in all, Coach Fearon is pleased with where the Warriors are and believes they have a good chance in the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
“Just about halfway through the season you’re hoping to see improved communication all over the field. The boys are being better about talking out on the field. Now that the fitness is starting to come around, it puts more pressure on the opposition, too. My biggest thing is trying to move the ball more,” Fearon said. “With only facing Shoreline opponents, we’re playing for that seeding. When it comes to the tournament, anything can happen.”