Lancers aim to break soccer-tourney drought
Make the state tournament.
That's the focus and the goal of the Notre Dame boys' soccer team. Now, to qualify for the CIAC tournament, a team needs to win 40 percent of its games, a challenging but achievable task.
The Lancers, however, haven't done it in a long, long time.
Whitey Budreckas has been the head coach of Notre Dame for over a decade and he doesn't remember the last time the Lancers played in the CIAC. Certainly, not under his watch.
According to the CIAC website, the last time the Lancers reached the state tournament was 1993.
"All the kids are looking forward to making the states, that's our main goal right now, to make the states," Budreckas said. "I can't remember that last time, I've been here 12 years and we've never done it. It would be a blessing to us to make the states. I think we will do it. It would be great for the school and great for the program."
Especially for a program that seems to be in an annual state of rebuilding. Budreckas is starting just three seniors and is relying on a group of five sophomores and three freshmen in his starting lineup but after Tuesday's 1-1 tie with New Fairfield, the Lancers are 3-2-2 and need just three more wins to make that dream of playing in the state tournament a reality.
"Yes, we have just three seniors players playing but it's been very exciting," Budreckas said. "I think this year we could go all the way as far as our division goes, not in our league, but so far, we're doing very well. We've got three wins and two ties so far, which is fantastic for us. The kids are working very hard and we're getting a lot of contributions."
And Budreckas is really excited about two freshmen, Felipe Canizan and Renan Giuberti, who have come from Brazil and have added new energy into the program.
"With them, you get energized watching them play together," said senior forward Kenny Fan. "How they communicate because they've known each other for a long time and they make us want to play better together."
Canizan scored the Lancers' goal in the Tuesday tie with New Fairfield, driving home a crossing pass from Giuberti with about 15 minutes left in the game.
"They've been a tremendous addition to our team," Budreckas said. "The nice part about them is, they're not selfish. They get along with everyone, so they're like part of the family. It's a blessing to have them."
This afternoon, Notre Dame travels to Brookfield to take on their Patriot Division rival. The Bobcats (4-1-1) lead the division with the Lancers standing in third place. But the rest of the Notre Dame Southwest Conference schedule looks favorable with games still left against Bunnell (1-5), Weston (2-2-2), Masuk (2-4), Newtown (1-3-2) and Kolbe (0-5-1).
"It's been such a long time for us as a program, it would be an honor to be part of a team that makes (states)," Fan said. "It would boost the program so much, letting people know that we're not just underdogs all the time, that we're a program on the rise.
"Compared to my freshman year, when I came up, it wasn't anything close. We've gotten a lot better. We work as a team. We work together. This year, we're actually looking forward to making the states. We know we can do it. In the last couple of years when we faced the big teams, like Joel Barlow and Bunnell, we felt that we would struggle, but this year, you can feel the whole team supporting each other. It's all about playing as a team."
Starting today at Brookfield.
"These last eight games are going to be very exciting for us," Budreckas said. "We'll see what happens. But it's been good ... it's a good feeling to win."