Wachusett Regional fell three points shy of earning a postseason invite in 2008, the first season as varsity coach for Jason Gaumond.
Since then, the Mountaineers have earned 11 straight tournament berths, reaching the Central Mass. Division 1 final four times and advancing to the state semifinals in 2013 and ’18. But with regional and state tournaments canceled this fall due to COVID-19, the focus has changed a bit.
Development — which typically translates to success — is still in, but so is participation.
“It’s a short season, so I’m trying to play everyone,” Gaumond said Tuesday before his squad delivered him a 50th birthday present with a 2-1 win over Leominster at Doyle Field.
“I’m playing all 22 kids a game. Whether it’s two minutes or 80 minutes, I’m trying to get every kid into the game as best I can.”
That includes both keepers, seniors Colin Kristolaitis and Thomas Reardon.
Reardon and Kristolaitis had split the minutes evenly through the first half of an eight-game schedule, helping the Mountaineers go 2-0-2 with ties against Westboro and Shrewsbury and wins over Algonquin Regional and Leominster.
The platoon system in goal is a break from tradition for Gaumond.
“Usually every year I pick one particular keeper and make him the starter, and he has to maintain that job throughout the year,” Gaumond said. “I’ve never, never replaced a keeper after I picked a starter. Then this year I had two senior keepers and I thought it was only fair that they both split the minutes.”
For those wondering, Reardon starts and Kristolaitis comes in at halftime. That’s the way things have played out since the opener, the duo combining to allow three goals and post a shutout.
“I’m a little superstitious, so I have Tom start every game, and Colin comes in for the last 40 minutes,” Gaumond said. “I stick to what’s working.”
While both Reardon (No. 0) and Kristolaitis (No. 00) reside in Rutland, they took different routes to get to where they are on the team.
Reardon played for junior varsity 2 as a freshman, JV 1 as a sophomore and made the varsity as a junior, although his game action came at the JV 1 level as he was behind two seniors. Whether it’s at practice or in a match, he’s always pushing himself to improve.
“I always try to outdo my competition,” Reardon said. “Even though I know I’m playing in the first half I always try to see if I can do better than the previous day.
“Something I definitely need to work on is my footwork. Just getting the ball on my feet better and first touch getting it to my teammates with more accuracy. But, yeah, working every day.”
Kristolaitis was the starting keeper and a varsity captain as a junior at Radford High in Honolulu before his dad, who grew up in Leicester, moved the family from Hawaii to Central Mass. in early August for work reasons.
As one might expect, there has been some adjusting.
“Definitely. I went from 80 degrees year-round to 30 degrees at night,” Kristolaitis said following a long laugh before being reminded the best, so to speak, is still to come with regard to New England weather.
As for soccer, Kristolaitis has quickly developed some nice chemistry with Reardon. The two work together in practice and warm each other up before taking the field.
“We coach each other on different points and helping each other out in practice will eventually pay off in the games,” Kristolaitis said. “We can definitely see us improving in games, whether it’s saves or stepping up on the ball and stuff like that.”
All told, the Mountaineers have 12 seniors, with Koichi Ash, Ryan Montalto, Corbin Narita, Orion Swayze and Gabriel Vernon serving as captains. Eoin Grenier, Mark Hodgkins, Issa Kabundi, Thomas Racke and Jacob Williams complete the class.
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