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Andrew Wirtz played a significant role on the Branford boys’ soccer squad throughout his varsity career. This season, the senior captain made a big switch to the forward position and scored 10 goals for the Hornets. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Wirtz )
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Andrew Wirtz became an explosive player for the Branford boys’ soccer team during the course of his high school career. Andrew finished his tenure with the Hornets by leading the team as a senior captain this fall, while recording 10 goals with seven assists on the campaign. He’s also an accomplished runner and pole vaulter in the Branford track program.
Andrew had to make a big adjustment on the soccer pitch in his senior season. Andrew’s natural position is center midfielder, but when the Hornets needed a little more firepower up front, Andrew shifted to forward. It proved a successful move for the Hornets, and Andrew was happy to do whatever it took to help out his club.
“I’ve played most of my career as a center mid. It was actually our assistant coach Bob Faulkner who brought it up during summer league. He saw my speed and skill on the ball, and me being able to work well with our other striker, Ralf Ciarleglio,” Andrew says. “It was a little hard adjusting. I like center mid, because I get to control the game, but up top I can be very dangerous and have a big effect when I take my opportunities.”
Andrew gets most of his opportunities through his quickness and his foot skills. Andrew, who’s been playing soccer since he was four, feels comfortable moving the ball anywhere on the field. Andrew has had a lot of time to work on his dribbling, but he also has plenty of speed to spare.
“I would say my dribbling is the best way for me to get where I want. I’m pretty quick on the ball, and I’m pretty agile,” says Andrew. “I’ve been pretty fast in soccer, but my freshman year, I realized that didn’t really apply anymore. A lot of people are fast. Running track really helped me get faster in training for that.”
Andrew, a three-year varsity starter, wound up making the All-SCC First Team for the Branford boys’ soccer squad this year. It was a huge honor for Andrew to go All-Conference.
“After practice, there were a couple of us on the team like Ralf who got All-SCC. [Head Coach Paul Hunter] pulled us all aside, and he told us we made All- SCC,” Andrew says. “I was really excited. I was happy to be recognized for something like that.”
In addition to playing soccer for Branford, Andrew also plays Premier soccer with the Shoreline Football Club during the winter and spring seasons. Andrew has served as a captain for Shoreline FC, although being a captain with the Hornets was a much different story.
“I’ve been captain for the Premier team for a few years, but there’s a lot more involvement with high school. You have to take responsibility for the kids on the team. It means more, and it’s a bigger responsibility,” says Andrew. “The biggest job is to be a good example for the team, lead everybody, and keep everybody’s emotions in check. If you’re acting out and you’re supposed to be the example, then no one else knows how to act. You have to conduct yourself the best you possibly can.”
Coach Hunter appreciates the talent and leadership that Andrew brought to his team. Hunter says Andrew features a unique skillset that makes him a nightmare for opponents to deal with.
“Andrew been one of the most technically talented players to come through our program and, with his speed, quickness, and ability to beat defenders one-on-one, he has been a thorn in the side of all the SCC teams,” Hunter says. “Andrew is the type of player that opposing coaches knew, as soon as he received the ball, there was going to be trouble. As a captain, Andrew was admired and respected by all his teammates for his drive, passion, and desire to succeed in all facets of the game.”
Andrew hones his skills while competing in the Branford track program. Andrew, who does sprinting events like the 100 and 200, believes that running track gives him that little extra burst on the soccer field.
“When I went out for track, I was trying to get faster. Endurance is important, but I’ve never had much issue with endurance,” says Andrew, who’s also reached a height of 10 feet-6 inches in the pole vault at states. “I thought sprinting was going to be more helpful to me for soccer. It seems useful to have that extra gear to turn on when I want.”
The Branford boys’ soccer team finished with a record of 7-7-3 while qualifying for the Class L State Tournament this season. Although Andrew wishes the Hornets could have gone further in the tournament, he cherishes the time that he’s shared with his teammates.
“I feel with the skill we had on the team this year, we could have gone really far,” Andrew says. “I still enjoyed every moment of it. I don’t have any regrets.”
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