By RICKY CAMPBELL
The Register Citizen Staff
LITCHFIELD — State championship defeats for both boys’ and girls’ soccer clubs in Litchfield weren’t enough to put their smiles and stories away following their magical seasons.
Students from both teams were able to share their Class S state title runs Thursday to a welcoming group of Litchfield-Morris Rotarians, supporting not only their community, but the student-athletes, too. The seven representatives from their respective squads, and two coachers, were beaming with excitement, as they shared their experiences with the Rotarians.
“We made history this year by getting out of the quarterfinals,” Cowgirls Head Coach Brian Mongeau said. “It’s really been a special year.”
For the girls program, which finished with a 12-5-2 record, the run to the state championship was a highlight since its inception during the mid-1990s. By 1997, after a Title IX battle and a U.S. Department of Education issuance of voluntary compliance to Litchfield Public Schools, the Cowgirls had a varsity program that ignited a fire still seen today.
On Thursday, Rotarian Andy Thibault handed each member of the team a letter from the Connecticut General Assembly’s Permanent Commission of the Status of Women.
“To have come this far in such a short time is testament to your athletic prowess, drive, teamwork and good coaching,” the letter from commission Executive Director Teresa C. Younger read. “I hope each of you is proud to be part of an historic team whose fight for equality in education, of which sports and fitness are an integral part, is legendary. In 1972, Title IX opened long-shut doors for young women by guaranteeing equal opportunity in education. Just as your trip to the State Finals was long and hard-won, so, too, has been the battle for gender equity.”
Younger went on to warn the girls that not only are females under-represented in “almost every area,” but of discrimination in wage-earning, too.
Coach Mongeau said that initial team laying the ground work for Cowgirls to come was a “true testament to where we are today.”
For a boys team that before hadn’t been to a state final since 1975, and has gone without a championship since 1963, the season ended on a bittersweet note. Though they dropped the final match 7-1 to Somers, the season was nowhere near a waste after finishing 11-7-2 and a turn-around painted in the sky.
Cowboys Head Coach Rob Andrulis told a story about a double rainbow one practice day – a sign of hope for both Litchfield teams.
“It all came together at the end,” he said. “The rest is history. The last few weeks were unbelievable.”
Believe it or not, Andrulis said one of the greatest feelings he’s had in his 11 years of varsity coaching was standing on the sideline and turning around, seeing the community rallying behind his team.
“It was an incredible event for the community to be there,” he said. “Yes, we lost both games, but the kids are all winners.
“The old cliché is that no one remembers who finishes second, but I know I will,” he added.
The double rainbow tale was one of memory for senior Nick Hula, who said “that was the moment I know we could do something special.”
And they did.
The Litchfield soccer teams rode their magical seasons as long as possible, carrying them into the state championships in historical fashion. Though both teams may not have brought home the ultimate hardware, they were able to rally many in the community behind them.