Perfect Season
Woodstock Academy senior Nate Majewski, left, goes to corral the ball in a match against Killingly. Senior Andrew Johnson, right, skies for the ball. Woodstock Academy coach Paul Rearden, center, and his team enjoyed a very successful 11-0 boys' soccer campaign this fall. The Woodstock Academy photos.

Most will be happy when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31.
For them, 2020 has been less than memorable.
But Woodstock Academy boys’ soccer coach Paul Rearden will not be among that group.
This past fall was a career highlight for the fifth-year coach of the Centaurs.
Perfect seasons don’t come along often in life especially in the sport of soccer but Woodstock Academy did so with an 11-0 record.
“There have been those invincible teams but even they seem to tie a lot of games, they don’t win every game. For a soccer team, at any level, to go unbeaten (and untied) – that’s massive,” Rearden said.
His seniors also got to experience something else over the last three seasons, according to Rearden. A proper taste of life.
It could easily be described as the epitome of the high school athletic experience. And a valuable lesson.
Rearden feels through sports, you learn the true character of people. Take what has happened to his program over the last three seasons.
In 2018, the Centaurs won their first-ever ECC tournament championship. A year later, they won one of their 16 matches. Somehow, they rallied for a perfect season this past fall.
“One minute, you can’t go any higher, and you walk around the next corner and there is a cliff. It’s how you reach down from that,” Rearden said.
Led by a dozen seniors, the Centaurs responded to their woes of last year and began the ascent back up the mountain.
It’s true there were no roadblocks like E. Lyme, Stonington, Waterford or Norwich Free Academy in their way this season. It’s also true that the team played only 11 matches.
But it also could have gone in the other direction. There was little to play for. No ECC divisional title, no ECC tournament title, no state tournament.
The Centaurs bonded over one desire – the ability to play.
“We told the boys that with the situation we were in, we don’t know what is going to happen this afternoon, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. This practice session might be the last time out on the soccer field for how long. We told them to grab every practice session with both hands and enjoy it,” Rearden said.
The COVID-19 virus did indeed raise havoc with the boys’ soccer season.
There were times when matches were cancelled on the same day they were scheduled due to a positive test in a school.
Norwich Tech played only one game, Norwich Free Academy three and Griswold four as those schools frequently had to retreat back to remote learning due to positive cases either in the school or the town.
Only six teams played more than 11 matches; Waterford finished with the highest total, 15, which was one short of the normal number for a high school season.
Due, in part, to the fact that Woodstock Academy was remote learning throughout the fall, there was no interruption because of any cases at the school.
There was however a long break in late October and early November when four consecutive matches were cancelled.
Still, Rearden’s Centaurs bought in. From the beginning.
Although it was an offshoot of the pandemic due to rules put in place by the Connecticut Department of Health, the long preseason that high school athletic teams endured prior to the fall season proved to be a help rather than a hindrance.
“There were restrictions on what we could and couldn’t do but I want to do that every year now,” Rearden said.
That’s because, in a normal year, tryouts start on Day 1 of the preseason.
Instead of time used to bond together as a team, it’s time spent trying to impress the coaching staff.
“To some extent, it’s dog eat dog. They’re looking at one another like I want to make varsity and want to keep you out. That’s the attitude I want, but this year, that didn’t happen for three or four weeks. It meant the bond was so tight between the boys from the freshmen who had just come in to the seniors that it was brilliant to see,” Rearden said.
Looking back, Rearden feels the chemistry that was built, from youngest to oldest, set the scene for the season and led the Centaurs to their perfect record.
“It’s everything,” Rearden said of the necessity for chemistry on a team. “You can have the 12 best soccer players on the field at one time, that doesn’t make a great team; they have to work together.”
It’s something the Centaurs did much better this season than last.
Especially on the offensive side. The Centaurs were outscored 47-20 in 2019.
That number made a little more lopsided over the course of 16 matches since eight of those goals came in the same match against New London.
This season, led by Eric Phongsa (12 goals, 7 assists), Huck Gelhaus (8-5), Richard Hickson (7-7) and Ty Morgan (9-1), the Centaurs outscored their opponents, 61-2.
That’s pretty dominant. Will the success be fleeting? Possibly.
The Centaurs lose 11 seniors. Connecticut High School Coaches Association Class L All-State players Gelhaus and Hickson graduate as do Eric Phongsa, Nate Majewski, Matt Marshall, James Phongsa, Stefan Chervenkov, Andrew Johnson, Colin Smith, Marco Maluf and Gabe Geyer.
It was the same following the 2018 season when the Centaurs lost 11 seniors including Ethan Holcomb, Cole Hackett, and Chase Anderson.
“I remember thinking, ‘We’re going to struggle without them,’” Rearden said.
“That’s sport. People go away and it opens the door for someone else. We’re actually losing a lot more starters this year than we did in ’18, but it gives the opportunity to the other guys who have been in the shadow so to speak.”
Rearden admits 2021 could be tougher especially since he hopes the ECC will go back to a normal setting with the Centaurs playing their traditional larger school opponents.
He thinks he and the team will be ready. “It’s all a learning curve,” Rearden said. “If it’s a transitional year, so be it. It’s high school soccer. You work with what you have, you make the best of it, try to build the chemistry and find the right combinations on the field. Hopefully, things will work out.”
In the meantime, he can continue smiling for the next nine months or so after a perfect season, something that every coach aspires to have.
Woodstock Academy boys’ soccer final stats
Goals    Assists  Points
Eric Phongsa                                                      12           7              19
Ty Morgan                                                          9           1              10
Huck Gelhaus                                                      8           5              13
Richard Hickson                                                  7           7              14
Marco Maluf                                                        5           2                7
Andrew Johnson                                                 4           0                4
Zach Roethlein                                                  3           0                3
Matt Marshall                                                    3           0                3
Noah Page                                                          2           2                4
Jack Marshall                                                      2           1                3
Stefan Chervenkov                                             2           0                2
Brian Jameson                                                    1           1                2
Owen Tracy                                                       1           1                2
Colin Smith                                                        1           1                2
Brandon Richards                                               1           0                1
Ian Hoffman                                                       0           3                3
Baden Eaton                                                        0           2                2
Jeff Phongsa                                                        0           1               1
Gabe Geyer                                                         0           1                1
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy


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