Coming off a fairly successful 2019 and with 14 seniors returning on the roster, the New Milford boys soccer team had high hopes for 2020.
Like everyone else, high hopes turned to the threat of losing the season and finally to playing a reduced schedule with a postseason tournament uncertain at best.
All the players are left with is they get to play at all.
“The kids are thrilled. All these kids want is a chance to play,” New Milford coach Lou Pereira said. “Yes we would like to play for SWC and state titles but just being out here is good for now.”
Last season, the Green Wave were 10-4-2 in the regular season, including a 2-1 win over eventual league champion Pomperaug.
New Milford lost in the second round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament 5-0 to Naugatuck after beating New Britain in the first round.
The Green Wave have never won a SWC championship, appearing in three finals since the league began in 1995. On the state level, New Milford has reached one state final, losing to Staples in 2009.
The dreams of this year’s team bringing home a title has been wiped out by COVID-19, but the players are still all-in on the season.
“The first few weeks when we could only play in the small pods was difficult for me to keep them motivated and difficult for the kids,” Pereira said. “Once we got out here, the kids are as happy as pie. The best part is the kids are listening. No parties, no going out and they are staying with our team. So far, they are doing that and that’s the key.”
Among the large senior class is returning All-State and All-SWC forward Alec Llerana. The striker can score from long range or use his speed to get to the net for the Green Wave.
Llerana is far from alone with seniors James Bishop, Nate Cramer and Luis Chamale all ready to score on offense.
Bishop and Cramer each scored twice and Chamale scored once a the season-opening, 5-1, win over Abbott Tech.
“That was our first game on and we were energetic. It was amazing, we were scoring goals left and right. I can’t be happier with this one,” Bishop said. “Because of the virus, we were not able to do anything half of the summer and then the other half we were not allowed to touch each other. We came into preseason off of nothing. I guess it’s all heart with this one. Senior season, I am just happy to be here with all the stuff going on. It’s a blessing that we get to be out here playing soccer.”
New Milford followed up the opening day win with a 0-0 tie against Pomperaug Saturday.
This season, CIAC teams are playing in regional pods based on geography.
New Milford is playing in the SWC-North pod along with Abbott Tech, Bethel, Brookfield, Immaculate, New Fairfield, Newtown and Pomperaug.
The Green Wave went 5-2 against those teams last fall.
Abbott Tech has joined the SWC for one year.
“We are in a good pod. We are thrilled to get to play Abbott Tech, they are a good team. We never had a chance to play against Abbott Tech,” Pereira said. “I like our pod, I wish we could play everyone in the SWC, but the pod we are in is competitive. I have ideas on how we can play SWCs and stuff but I am just thrilled they are allowing us to play.”
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