Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Torres Working Hard to Get the Easties Ready


Senior captain defender Mat Torres has been working hard to prepare the East Haven boys’ soccer team for the fall season. Photo courtesy of Mat Torres

Senior captain defender Mat Torres has been working hard to prepare the East Haven boys’ soccer team for the fall season. (Photo courtesy of Mat Torres )

As the East Haven boys’ soccer squad waited for information about the 2020 season, senior defender Mat Torres stayed busy by organizing pickup games for his teammates and encouraging new people to join the program. Head Coach Mike Papantonio calls Mat “the point person” on the Yellowjackets and says that he’s done an excellent job of keeping everyone connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Mat helps the Easties prepare for their season, he understands that the team is coming off of a one-win campaign in 2019. However, as Mat enters his senior year—a year in which he will lead East Haven as a captain with goalie Asa Myers—he feels excited that the Yellowjackets will get an opportunity to play soccer and prove to everyone that they can be a competitive team.

“I’m really trying to get these boys back to playing. Obviously, none of us have played as a team in a while. I’m trying to help get these boys back in shape and get ready for the season,” Mat says. “It’s not about last season. It’s about how much work we can put in this season. If we put in the work, we can get it done and earn some wins.”

Growing up, Mat watched a lot of soccer with his father Ivan. Each of them root for the FC Barcelona soccer team and are big fans of both Lionel Messi and Xavier Hernández Creus, who have served as captains of the team. Mat always tried to emulate his two soccer idols and wanted to play the same way that they did on the pitch.

“As a kid, my dad and I always used to watch soccer together. Because of him, I love the sport,” says Mat. “I would watch the captains play and see how much of a role they played with the team. I always imagined doing it and being a leader like them. They really inspired me to push forward playing soccer. That’s why I started playing sophomore year.”

Mat played one season of competitive soccer at the Connecticut Sportsplex in North Branford during his 7th-grade year. While he had grown up playing soccer with his friends and certainly had a passion for the sport, that season marked Mat’s lone experience competing for a team at the time.

However, that changed when Mat joined the East Haven boys’ soccer team in his sophomore year of high school. Mat felt that he would be a good fit with the Yellowjackets and promptly earned a starting job on defense as their right back.

“I was so nervous. I hadn’t played in such a long time,” Mat says. “My coach put me in at right back, starting my first game ever. I was freaking out. But from there on, I’ve adjusted and played on.”

As he entered his junior year, Mat went from someone who was learning how to play soccer again to an athlete who was determined to prove that he could be an asset for the Yellowjackets, as well as a great teammate. Papantonio became East Haven’s head coach prior to Mat’s junior season. After watching Mat play, Papantonio knew that the Easties had a tenacious defender who isn’t afraid of anything on the field.

“I’ve never seen the kid have a bad day. Mat always has a smile on his face and is ready to work. He isn’t deterred by hard work. You can tell he wants to learn, grow, and improve himself,” says Papantonio. “Mat knows how to use his body and doesn’t mind taking contact and delivering it back. He is humble enough to where he is willing to take coaching and advice to improve his play.”

Papantonio feels that Mat is going to be an outstanding captain based on the leadership he displayed throughout the offseason. Mat was honored to earn the captain’s role and wants to push both himself and his teammates to a higher level during the 2020 campaign. Mat is hoping that all of the Easties’ effort during their preseason workouts translates to better results on the field this fall.

“I’m really trying to push the boys to come to these practices and conditionings,” says Mat. “There are some freshmen coming out, and they’re doing great at these pickup games. I can’t wait to see how it translates to the games.”

Mat wants to continue playing soccer in college after he graduates from high school. While he hasn’t selected a major yet, Mat has been looking at various schools, including the University of New Haven.

One of Mat’s favorite aspects of soccer is the creativity of the sport and how it forces players to make impromptu decisions. Mat appreciates that he’s learned more about soccer as a result of playing for East Haven. Now, Mat is eager to compete alongside a group of teammates who he calls his “brothers” in his final go-round with the Yellowjackets.

“It’s not just calling yourself a soccer player. It’s calling yourself an athlete. An athlete is being a different person, being a leader, being someone who can change something in someone else’s life,” Mat says. “I love helping my teammates when they need someone. It’s nice being on this team. I love being a soccer player. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

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