Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

GFA Boys Soccer Team Has Grown Together Into a Title Contender

John Nash

Greens Farms Academy boys soccer coach Chris Mira had no idea where the 2021 soccer season would take him and his Dragons.

A NEPSAC Class C semifinal wasn’t exactly in the picture, however.

That’s where the Dragons are headed though, as on Saturday afternoon, sixth-seeded GFA treks to The Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, Mass., to face No. 2 Vermont Academy at 1 p.m.

The winner advances to Sunday's New England championship game at Loomis Chaffee School against the iwnner of the other semifinal pitting St. Andrew's against St. Luke's.

Mira chuckled and admitted back in August he never would have expected the Dragons to advance this far into the postseason.

After all, 10 starters graduated from last year’s team, which competed in a COVID-created, surreal season that saw three 30-minute stanzas a game and nobody really keeping “official” scores.

With one returning starter, a handful of role players returning, some junior varsity players stepping and some incoming freshmen making the roster, the Dragons proceeded to go 9-4-4 to earn a berth in the New England tournament.

A 3-2 win over Beaver Country Day in the NEPSAC quarterfinals gave GFA its 10th win of the season.

“I think we had to create an identity first,” Mira said. “Everyone was learning kind of a new role, different positions. It took a while for the team to start becoming a team rather than individuals thinking on their own.”

“Once people kind of understood what their role was, I think then it became much easier for them to gel and count on each other and rely on each other—all the things that make the team feel like they're working as one,” the coach added.

The team opened the season with a 2-1, statement-making win over St. Andrew’s.

How big would that win prove to be? St. Andrew’s is the tournament’s No. 1 seed on the other side of the bracket.

“That first game against St. Andrew’s kind of showed us what was possible,” Mira said.

The players started buying in.

“I feel like the key to this would probably be just our hard work in practice and our mindset,” senior captain Ben Isenstein said. “Our mindset at the beginning of the year wasn’t that great, but we got better and took it more seriously. We got into it at practices and that carried over into games.”

And players soon grew into their roles.

While Oscar Edelman returned to the starting backfield, every other Dragon on the field was new to the varsity first 11.

Balance also proved to be a GFA strength as five different players scored GFA’s first five goals this season, including two fullbacks.

Twelve different Dragons have scored goals this season, led by sophomore Harry Harmston (13 goals, 8 assists) and freshman Cecil Reid (9 goals).

Oscar Edelman and Max Laferreire have had five goals each, Manny Bishay and JP Atehortua had four apiece while Ethan Eckert (3 goals), Mat Timashev (2 goals), Andrew Roth, Aidan Spellacy, and Thomas Edwards all found the net, as well.

Isenstein, Andrew Bellismo, Kyle Haas are other key players who have stepped up with a lot of key minutes.

Matt Maged and Ryan Buzzee have been solid in goal for the Dragons, who have out-scored opponents 50-30 this season.

“I don't think we can point to one thing for us to hang our hat on,” Mira said. “It’s just hopefully we're all on the same page every day because that’s when we’re at our best.”

Heading into the Vermont Academy game, the Dragons will be down four regular players for a variety of reasons.

If they win on Saturday and head to Sunday's title game, another player will be leaving, as well.

So, while the short-handed Dragons will have their work cut out for them this weekend, the team has proven it has players who can fill the roles needed for GFA Boys Varsity to be successful.