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11/17/2023 04:56 PM

Guilford Boys’ Soccer Displayed Passion on the Field with New Head Coach

Andres Gutierrez was the vocal and passionate leader of the Guilford boys’ soccer team as a senior captain this year. Photo by Ken Marangell/The Courier

When a team is under new leadership, it’s hard to know what to expect. There could be growing pains, challenging transitions, or it could be difficult for a new coach to connect with the roster in front of them. Despite any pre-notions under a new coaching regime, the Guilford boys’ soccer team still put together a season to be proud of.

After finishing the regular season with a 7-6-3 record, the Grizzlies found themselves in both the SCC and Class L State Tournaments. As the No. 7 seed in the conference draw, Guilford took a 4-0 loss to No. 2 Cheshire in the quarterfinal round on Oct. 29. Then, moving onto the Class L State Tournament, the Grizzlies drew the No. 23 seed. Guilford took a first-round defeat to No. 10 Daniel Hand on Nov. 7 to close out a solid campaign.

First-year Head Coach Rick Geremia looks back on his debut season with pride, especially knowing the team had to face some tough adversaries along the way.

“We knew coming in that we were facing one of the most challenging schedules in the SCC,” said Geremia. “Daniel Hand, Fairfield Prep, Cheshire, Xavier, West Haven, and Wilbur Cross (twice each), but we were up for the challenge. We had three ties and had three tough one-goal setbacks.”

The Grizzlies began their season 0-1, with a close 1-0 loss to the Daniel Hand Tigers. Despite the result, Geremia had faith in his team to turn it around.

“The opener was a tight 1-0 loss at Hand in the early-season heat wave, we played very well, and knew we had a quality team,” Geremia said. “It didn’t phase us.”

After their loss to Hand, the Grizzlies went on a four-game winning streak, starting with a 4-1 victory over Morgan on Sept. 9. Three days later, they defeated Xavier 2-1, before picking up wins over North and West Haven. In that four-game span, the Grizzlies outscored their opponents 11-3.

After an early win streak in the beginning parts of the season, Guilford would be stuck trying to maintain that same success, winning just one out of their next five games. Following their 1-0 victory over West Haven, the Cheshire Rams handed the Grizzlies their first tie of the season, as both teams scored just one goal. A 2-0 victory over Wilbur Cross in their next game put Guilford at 5-1-1 through their first seven games of the season.

However, the Grizzlies then suffered two losses and another tie in their next three outings. They lost to Fairfield Prep 2-0, tied Hand 2-2, and lost to Xavier in their second meeting with them, 1-0. At this point, the Grizzlies were 5-3-2.

After not securing a win in their previous three games, Guilford broke that streak when they faced North Haven on Oct. 9, as they won 2-0. A 3-1 victory over Old Lyme in their next contest improved their record to 7-3-2, but that was the last victory the Grizzlies celebrated during the regular season.

Despite tying Cheshire earlier in the season, the Grizzlies lost their second contest to them in a close 2-1 game. They then went on to tie their next game vs. Wilbur Cross before suffering their second defeat to Fairfield Prep in the season finale.

After falling to Daniel Hand in a tight contest in the state tournament, Geremia still took away a positive, stating that his team gave it all they had and just came up short of the win.

“We traveled to Daniel Hand for the first round, exactly where we started two months earlier,” Geremia said. “It was a hard fought 1-0 loss.”

Captains for Guilford this season included seniors Owen Medvecky, who Geremia described as a physical, athletic, and well-respected player by the team, Andres Gutierrez, who was the vocal and passionate leader of the team, and Jason Li, the team’s physical and intelligent defensive captain.

Even further adding to the success Guilford had this season, three players made All-Conference to be recognized for their efforts. Medvecky (six goals, three assists) and Gutierrez (nine goals, one assist) were named First Team All-SCC, while junior Stephano Jarrin (two goals, one assist) was named Second Team All-Conference. Junior Wyatt Sprenkle (four goals, four assists) was an Honorable Mention, as well as senior Andrew Jarrin (two goals.)

As Geremia looks ahead to next fall on the turf, he knows he will have several valuable players returning to the fold. Key returnees next season include Daniel Perez, Sprenkle, Grant Waehner, Andrew Voytek, Stephano Jarrin, and goalkeeper Jameson Benben. Three injured players from last season that include Harris Atherton, Evan Arteaga, and Vinny Malatesta will also return to the team.

Geremia succeeded Curtis Gullette as the team’s soccer coach this season. Having been an assistant coach with the Guilford girls’ program and the Guilford Youth Program for 12 years, he said he was able to transition to a head coaching spot with ease, especially with the attitudes every player on the team displayed, ready to rise to the occasion and step up under pressure.

“It was a smooth transition to the boys’ team,” said Geremia. “The biggest challenge was replacing the entire four defensive and goalkeeeper positions, but I am very proud of the way the underclassmen stepped up to their varsity roles. We struggled with injuries all season, but we used “the next man up” philosophy.”

The 2023 Guilford Grizzlies boys’ soccer team included: sophomores Ari Kroop, Luca Palumbo, Cameron Forester, Grantham Schlagheck, Voytek, Carter Gagnon, and Nikolas Piironen; juniors Benben, Arteaga, Perez, Andrew Fappiano, Pierce Pappert, Nathan Iozzia, Milo De Luca, Sprenkle, Quin Iaccarino, Waehner, and Stephano Jarrin; and seniors Anthony Malatesta, Magnus Fencil, Sergio Garcia, Andrew Jarrin, Aidan Soper, Li, Owen Medvecky, Mathew Carmona, Ryan Melillo, Ian Campaign, and Gutierrez.