Mike Sypher: Shining brightly on the soccer field

·6 min read

Oct. 27—Mothers and fathers everywhere are always looking for ways for their sons and daughters to engage in something positive, whether it be an educational or athletic opportunity.

So count the parents of Stanley Strycharz and Maggie Vasington, the Chronicle's selections as our athletes of the week, as happy campers indeed given the choices that their kids have made over the years.

Stanley is a sophomore success story with his Coventry High soccer squad as the surging Patriots have won six of their last seven games en route to a 10- 4 overall record this fall.

And Maggie has been a dominant force while anchoring the back line for her E. O. Smith soccer team for the past three seasons with the senior a major reason why the Panthers are riding a 9- game unbeaten run (6-0-3) en route to a sparkling 9-1-3 ledger thus far this season.

But let's dial back the levers on the time machine a bit and find out what helped Stanley and Maggie find success on the soccer pitch today.

" Stanley made soccer his first choice a lot earlier than most kids," said Paul Strycharz, Stanley's Dad who also just happens to double as Coventry's head coach. " I would say by the age of eight, Stanley pushed baseball and basketball aside and wanted to attend every soccer camp or clinic he could.

" Even at 8- years- old, he could strike a ball with great pace."

And Stanley picked up the pace as he continued to devote more and more hours to developing his burgeoning soccer skills.

" I started playing in the Elmo Soccer Program in town around the age of three," recalled Stanley. "And at around 7- or 8-years-old, I really found enjoyment in soccer as I started to really understand the game.

" I found myself watching the Premier League on TV, attending UConn games and camps and I joined the CFC Soccer Program."

Vasington's parents were looking for an outlet for their active daughter to burn off a bit of energy and soccer proved to be the perfect choice.

" My parents initially signed me up for soccer when I was four just as a way for me to get my energy out," recalled Maggie. " As I got older, I fell in love with how fast- paced and competitive the sport was.

"My passion for soccer followed me to E. O. Smith and my love expanded from the game to my teammates and the culture of high school soccer."

You could call E. O. Smith coach Gui Estes one happy camper when Vasington burst on the scene in Storrs as a freshman force for their Panthers.

" Freshman year, Maggie was a swing player for us at first until she became full- time varsity halfway through the season as a result of her impact on the team," recalled Estes, whose Panthers have outscored opponents by a 30-4 margin during their unbeaten run.

" Maggie was gaining quite a bit of playing time for us throughout her freshman campaign because of her high energy, work ethic on the field and her ability to disrupt play."

Vasington's ability to disrupt play has stamped her as E. O. Smith's organizer on the back line.

" Maggie is a dominant force on the back line," continued Estes. " She's been my starting center back for the last three years and she's got an outstanding eye for the game and can read plays very well.

"As a result, she disrupts the offensive flow for our opponents. Her strength is her speed and work ethic on the field. She's a strong communicator and encourages her teammates."

Maggie has always maintained that the relationships she shares with coaches and teammates are just as important as statistics and numbers on the scoreboard.

"From my four years of playing varsity, I've learned that winning is not the most important thing but rather supporting your teammates and stepping up when needed," said Vasington, who has scored a goal and collected an assist while joining the attack and peppering the opponent's net with seven shots this season.

"I think those two things have been my strongest attributes during my years at E. O. Smith.

" I have been a strong player on the team since I was a freshman and, with coaching and guidance from my great coaches, I have become more confident with the ball at my feet and I use that to my advantage on the field."

"I hope my strengths on and off the soccer field follow me into college as I plan to pursue a future playing soccer along with my academics," added Vasington.

Stanley Strycharz's future burns equally bright because of a similar approach to soccer.

" I feel one of Stanley's best qualities is how excited he gets for his teammates' success," said Coach Strycharz.

"Stanley is not, and has never been, all about himself.

" His teammates and friends have always been a priority in his life."

Finding the back of the net has touched off more than a few celebrations between Stanley and his teammates this season.

The 5-11, 152-pounder has pumped home 10 goals in 14 games while also setting up his teammates with six assists as the Patriots have gelled quickly following a 4- 3 start to the season.

"Shooting, switching the point of attack and holding the ball," Stanley replied when asked to list his particular strengths.

" During games, Stanley switches between his natural position as midfield wing to striker," said Coach Strycharz. " Stanley's ability to strike a ball allows him to shoot from just about anywhere in the final third."

And the final third of Coventry's season seems destined to produce even more success because of the adroit way the Strycharz men handle their dual responsibilities as coach and player, father and son.

"Coaching your son or daughter isn't always easy but having the front row seat and being able to share some pretty awesome moments with them makes it all worth it," said Coach Strycharz.

" Being the coach's son sometimes isn't easy, but Stanley has earned everything on his own."

" When I'm on the soccer field, I don't call him Dad ... it's always Coach," said Stanley, who has scored three goals in Coventry's last two games. " I try to be the player that is at every single practice, run and event that is held for my team.

" Also, my role is to be the hardest-working player on the team as I never want to be criticized or labeled as the ' coach's son'."

We can label Stanley Strycharz and Maggie Vasington, though, with one adjective that both wear comfortably.

That word? Successful, with the promise of even brighter futures ahead. ... Mike Sypher is the sports editor of the Chronicle.

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