Despite battling injuries along with tough Southern Connecticut Conference foes throughout the season, the Jonathan Law boys soccer team secured points in half of its games and earned a Class L state tournament berth.
Although a heavy underdog in their state bracket first round visit to Joel Barlow of Redding, the No. 24 Lawmen hung close for most of the contest. Barlow, the No. 9 seed, moved on with a 2-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Barlow (12-4-1) advanced to play the winner of No. 8 Branford and No. 25 Harding of Bridgeport in the second round on Thursday.
Law (6-8-2) saw its season come to a close.
“Our kids are tough, they’re a gritty group of kids,” said Law coach Mike Gruber, pointing out that his team never packed it in against a tough Barlow squad, even after the Falcons doubled their lead with 8:33 to play in the second half. “We may not be the most technical group in the world but we fight hard. Even if we’re losing we fight,”
Barlow had a majority of the game’s chances and most of the possession time, but Law had a chance off a scramble following a free kick to tie the game and they kept within striking distance until the final minutes.
“We worked on our defensive shape for the last four days,” Gruber said. “Barlow’s one of the best teams in the state at possessing the ball. We knew they were going to have most of the possession. We just wanted to make sure we were organized.”
Led by defenders Troy Anderson and Kyle Goglia, both senior captains, the Lawmen forced Barlow to work hard to generate scoring chances.
Law starting goalkeeper Daniel Majkut made eight saves before getting dinged up and exiting the match with three minutes to play. Senior keeper Timothy Hanna came to play the final few minutes.
Captain Will Contaxis, Sean Theisen and Colin White are other seniors who will be lost to graduation.
“We’re going to miss them a ton,” said Gruber, a fourth-year coach with the team. “I’ve had them since the beginning. They’re basically our rocks, especially defensively back there.”
One of the strongest attributes of the seniors was their leadership by example style.
“The way they practice is the way they play. Now the kids know how to practice because of these players,” Gruber said.
Law had a mix of seniors and underclassmen, including freshmen, who saw playing time this fall. Junior captain Jon Vitale is among the prospective returnees, and the Lawmen have a nice foundation to build from.
“Our kids played hard. We were in every single game for the most part,” said Gruber, adding that he was pleased with his team’s ability to overcome injuries.
Five of Law’s regular-season defeats were by just one or two goals, and five of the team’s wins were decided by a goal or two.
Anderson will miss playing for the Lawmen.
“It’s like a family here. I love it,” he said. “We pulled it together.”