Holy cross

Holy Cross is hungry to prove that last year’s race to the final was no fluke

It’s a story that has been playing out on high school athletic fields for ages.

One team rushes to a state tournament championship game and loses, but does so with a strong core of subclasses.

This group of players promise to return to the final next year, but this time around, they win it all.

This was done last year by the Hall boys soccer team, which lost in the 2018 CIAC Class LL State Final, but came back and won it all in 2019.

Last fall, Holy Cross made its first inning, reaching the Class S title match before falling 3-1 to Old Saybrook in double overtime.

The day after that match, the returning Crusaders made it their mission to come back and win the school’s first state championship in men’s football. The school has been a two-time finalist, also qualifying for a state final in 1985.

“We just wanted to come back this year and do our Revenge Tour. We wanted to prove that last year wasn’t a mistake and that we are for real, ”said Holy Cross senior midfielder Giuseppe Mongelluzzo. “Last year is last year for us. Yes, we did a state run and no one thought we could do it. Last year is just motivation for us.

Mongelluzzo was among 25 GameTimeCT players to watch during the preseason.

Holy Cross will not have a chance to claim state championship glory, with the CIAC not hosting a tournament this year due to COVID-19.

“Last year to get to this final stage and not win was heartbreaking. This year we have come back hungry and determined to go back and win, ”said senior midfielder Kadin Talho. “Knowing that we had the squad we have now, thinking that we might not have a season was devastating. Now we are here playing. We might not be going for this state championship, but we want to prove that we could have won it. “

On paper, the Crusaders certainly seemed to be the favorites not only to win their first NVL title since 2003, but to win their first domestic title as well.

With Mongelluzzo and Talho in midfield, the team brought back another All-NVL selection with fullback Luke Zipoli.

Additionally, junior goalie Cameron Sivilla, senior Gennaro Genua and junior Aiden Coelho are back.

What was not planned is that three transfers join the team.

With the closure of Chase Collegiate in Waterbury, juniors Jaden Paniagua and Patrick Osiecki have both transferred, gaining starting spots.

Osiecki scored 27 goals in 13 games at Chase last year.

Ben Piri has transferred from Watertown but must be absent from the first six games before he can join the squad under the CIAC transfer rules. Piri will join the already talented midfielder on his return.

“The new guys fit like a glove in our squad,” said Holy Cross coach John Teixeira. “They came in and are open-minded and humble. They’re made from the same fabric as our guys. They showed how much they wanted to be a part of this team by the force with which they came out and worked from day one. We were already a good team and these guys made us even better.

Teixeira said the depth provided by the new transfers has taken his side from a contender to a favorite.

“Look at Hall, when the teams go up against them you can lock this guy down, but then there are a couple of other guys who can beat you,” he said. “This year we have that. If anyone’s focusing on Joey (Mongelluzzo), we have Kadin and Patrick. Not only do we have Luke, who is a phenomenal center-back, but we have a mirror image with Jaden. This is good for them because they are now dividing the land rather than having to cover east and west. It allows them to be more aggressive in certain aspects of the game. Now they can take that chance knowing that there is another guy behind them and that they are not the last line of defense.

The new depth allows the team to be less predictable game by game.

“This year I feel like we can play in and out, we can score on crosses, we can score on one-two combinations, we can score on counters. I think with the extra kids. our ability to attack good teams changes, “said Teixeira.” Against Naugy we played a 4-5-1, but next time we could go back to a 3-5-2. We can change the game. in play and no one can lock us in our formations. I can switch guys from offensive to defensive roles. The flexibility of being able to rotate people through different positions gives us another advantage as it creates different players who can attack and play in defense game after game.

Last week Holy Cross beat Naugatuck 2-0 for the school’s first victory over rivals for as long as we can remember.

Osiecki scored both goals in the victory with Mongelluzzo and Talho each providing an assist.

“Naugy is the crème de la crème and everyone in our league is always chasing them and trying to take them down,” Teixeira said. “When I say bring them down, I mean consistently. You will still have that one year wonder with some teams and you could beat them. Beating them once is good, but are you a constant threat to them? I believe over the past three years we’ve reduced that margin to next to nothing now. “

The two teams play twice in the regular season and could meet in some sort of playoff yet to be determined.

With leagues divided into regional groups, Holy Cross finds itself in NVL North with defending NVL Champion Naugatuck, as well as against the traditionally strong Watertown. St. Paul, Torrington and Wolcott complete the area.

All the teams in the group except Wolcott finished with a record number of wins last year.

Holy Cross was a juggernaut of men’s football in the ’80s and’ 90s, winning nine league titles between 1983 and 1994.

The Crusaders not only want to win the NVL this year, but establish a legacy of victories and perhaps regain the glory of those dynastic years.

“Our goal since Coach Teixeira arrived in my sophomore year has been to build a dynasty,” said Mongelluzzo. “Create a program that people want to come here and play for. We want it to be a school where kids can come and get a good education and also be the best NVL football team for years to come.