ENFIELD — Matt Spruill’s perspective of the Enfield High boys soccer team’s postseason drought was different than the rest of the Eagles.
Since it’s his first season on the team, the senior hasn’t had to endure the disappointment of seeing the season end after the final regular season game.
Spruill won’t have to either. The Eagles have already clinched their first state tournament berth since Enfield and Fermi High merged in 2016.
“It means a lot that I’m able to help them do that,” Spruill said following Enfield’s 2-0 CCC East win over Manchester Thursday. “Since it’s my first and only year, that’s now the new standard for them (the underclassmen). They know what they have to do. We knew going in it was going to be a tough season. But we were ready for it, and I think we proved that we’re good enough to make the tournament and go as far as we can.”
The Eagles clinched their berth in the Class LL tournament with Tuesday’s 5-1 win at Platt. For the Enfield High program, it will be its first state tournament appearance since it was part of the NCCC in 2009.
“It was really hard coming in when we merged the schools to build a new culture and build a new program,” coach Tony Allegro said. “The boys have worked extremely hard. But it’s definitely great to have the monkey off our back so to speak. Now we can just focus on playing well and not have that extra added pressure.”
Spruill, who played at Oakwood Soccer Club in Glastonbury and the Connecticut Football Club’s Elite Clubs National League team his first three years of high school, said the team hasn’t felt any pressure in 2021.
But he did say the team has to stay focused for the rest of the season.
“Everyone’s got to lock-in. All the coaches, captains have to really drill it into the players that we’re not satisfied,” the defender/midfielder added. “It’s definitely a challenge, but we’re up for it.”
When asked if this is where he thought the team would be after 10 games, Allegro said that Enfield (6-2-2) “has exceeded my expectations in more ways than one.”
“We thought we’d be a competitive team, but we didn’t think we’d be this solid,” he added.
Allegro, who’s been Enfield’s coach since 2016 after serving as an assistant at Fermi from 2007-2015, said the Eagles have a better defense and stronger team chemistry than in previous years.
But perhaps the biggest difference this year has been the team’s depth.
“In years past, we didn’t have a lot of depth in a lot of positions,” Allegro said. “This year we have the personnel and the kids are putting in the effort.”
Allegro hopes that the team’s success in 2021 will only help that depth in future years.
“Any time you have a successful program, it helps those feeder programs at the youth level,” he said. “Hopefully it’s just a snowball effect and things just get better and better for us.”
Though the Eagles have clinched their state tournament berth, there are still more things on their to-do list in the final five games of the regular season.
Spruill added that another goal the Eagles have for their remaining regular season games is to capture the CCC East title. Enfield hasn’t won a division title since the merger.
Thursday’s game was the only CCC East game on the schedule. There’s currently a five-way tie at the top of the table as East Catholic, E.O. Smith, RHAM, South Windsor and Tolland are all 2-1-1.
Enfield is third at 1-2-2, followed by Manchester at 1-3-1 and East Hartford at 0-2-2.
The Eagles and the Red Hawks (1-6-4) played a scoreless first half Thursday. But it didn’t take the Eagles long to break through in the second as Traizen Griffith put in a rebound of Antonio Calabrese’s shot 6:57 into the half.
Spruill added an insurance goal 3:33 later, heading the ball in following a cross from Griffith into the penalty area.
The win extends Enfield’s winning streak to four games, its longest since the merger and the longest streak for an Enfield team since it won five straight in 2010.
“Things are starting to click that weren’t clicking in the beginning of the season,” Allegro said. “The kids are working really hard to meet their objectives, to really focus and work on our objectives, on the team and what we need to do to get better.”
Manchester has now been held scoreless in its last eight games. The Red Hawks have only scored twice this season, with both goals coming in a 2-0 win over RHAM Sept. 13.
“We’ve tried different systems and we’ve put a lot on the guys,” coach Jon Cohn said. “They’re trying to do it. They’re trying their best. And as a coach, I want to win for these guys because they’re working so hard and they’re staying together and they’re fighting. We are just sort of lacking that predator that every team has.”
John Bellafronte made five saves for Enfield while Will Slayton stopped four shots for the visitors.
Both teams return to action Tuesday. Enfield hosts Tolland while Manchester heads to South Windsor.