NORTH STONINGTON — In his first year playing goalkeeper, senior Andrew Swift took home first-team ECC Small Division honors.
T.J. Condon and Kevin Knowles also made the 11-player first team.
Swift played net in every one of the Lions’ 17 games this season and recorded seven shutouts despite entering the season with virtually no experience in net.
“Andrew played one game in goal last year because of an injury but he was willing to learn and did a good job in practice,” Mendonca said.
“He’s a tall, lanky kid and he’s very athletic and he was able to get to a lot of balls that were shot high that not everybody would be able to get to.
“He’s really raw but if he goes to a smaller college, by the time he’s a senior he could be a good goalkeeper at the college level. He really made some outstanding saves for us this year.”
Swift’s 2013 first-team selection was the first postseason honor of his career. He was the only keeper selected to the ECC-Small first team; two were named honorable mention.
Swift is the second consecutive Wheeler goalie to earn a spot on the ECC-Small first team. Jacob Sylvestre garnered a first-team spot in 2012.
Mendonca said Swift beat out Windham keeper Vasileios Papadam for the first-team spot.
Condon, a junior, led the Lions in scoring with 14 goals and eight assists. He was one of four midfielders to make the first team.
Mendonca said Condon grew into his role as the season progressed.
“John Mulhern and Justin Audoin combined for 20 goals last year and we needed someone to step up and score some goals for us,” Mendonca said. “He learned to shoot from the outside and not always try to carry the ball to the net. He scored a lot of goals from 18-20 yards out.
“He really got on a roll after the (Sept. 28) game against Griswold. We won 2-1 and he scored both goals. He really learned that he could score from the outside during that game.”
Mendonca went on to say that Condon began to pass the ball more after defenses started keying on him and he picked up the majority of his eight assists from that point on.
Condon earned a ECC-Small honorable mention as a sophomore.
Knowles, a junior fullback, was one of four defensemen in the division to earn the honor.
“I told him at the beginning of the year that any ball you go to you’ve got to win and that’s what he did,” Mendonca said. “He’s an athlete. What he did for us on the back end: playing balls, winning balls, being a leader. I have so much confidence in him.
“Even if he gets beaten he slows a guy down enough so that he can get back and make a play.”
Mendonca said that Knowles’ presence on the back end was especially important given that a freshman played on either side of him.
Knowles’ ECC-Small honor was the first postseason award of his career.
Leo Sierra was the Lions’ sportsmanship award winner.
Wheeler posted a 10-7 overall record and finished third in the six-team Small Division with a 7-3 record.
The Lions lost on penalty kicks in the first round of the Class S state tournament.
Senior Jess Muller and junior Kylie Baker earned ECC Small Division honorable mention.
Muller, a senior, led the Lions in both goals scored (6) and total points (13). She was also honorable mention after her junior season.
Baker scored five goals for the Lions this season. The honorable mention was her first postseason honor.
Wheeler’s Sportsmanship award went to sophomore Pamela Grigg.
There were 13 players named honorable mention team and the positions were not a factor in deciding the team. The first team has 11 players with three forwards, four midfielders, three fullbacks and one goalie.
Sara Gaccione earned ECC Small Division honorable mention and was the only player for the Lions.
Gaccione, a junior, played the Libero position, an entirely defensive position which is usually the first to touch the ball on a volley.
Wheeler coach Jennamarie Lesky said Gaccione was very coachable and took on the role of a leader on a very young team.
Seven players earned a spot on the ECC-Small first team and seven more earned honorable mention.
Paula Herran, a foreign exchange student who will not be back with the team in 2014, earned the sportsmanship award for Wheeler.
Matt Bezuyen also contributed to this story.