BEACON FALLS – It’s been more than two months since 17-year-old Ryan Eustace passed away after a severe head injury suffered in a car accident. Now his friends on the Woodland boys’ soccer team are ready to pay tribute to him during the 2010 season.
Tyler Carlos and Christian Pinho, two of Eustace’s best friends, are planning to remember their friend throughout their senior year.
“I’m planning on wearing number eight this season because that was Ryan’s favorite number,” Carlos said. “We just need to work as hard as we can to be the best players we can be. Ryan worked hard at everything he did, so we should follow in his footsteps and practice hard every single day. I want to dedicate this season to Ryan. Every goal I score, I want to point to the sky in memory of him.”
Eustace might have plenty of goals to his credit, because Carlos isn’t the only one planning on chalking up scores to his friend.
“He was my best friend, so I’ll play for him and every goal I score will count for him,” Pinho said. “I think playing for him will just make me want to play by best season for Woodland soccer. I’ll also probably make a shirt about him and wear it under my uniform every game.”
Both Carlos and Pinho aren’t going to limit their remembrance of Eustace to the soccer field, though. They plan on doing much more throughout the school year to honor their friend’s memory.
“It’s never easy to adapt to losing one of your best friends,” Carlos said. “Everywhere our group goes, we feel like something is missing. Ryan was our brother and still is today. I would like to dedicate all the money raised in my senior project to either the Eustace family or to Ryan’s scholarship.”
“We still think about him every day,” Pinho explained. “He was like our brother and we would hang out literally every weekend. Ryan always cared about school the most so I’m going to concentrate on my grades and do the best like he would do. Me and [Ryan’s brother] Sean are probably going to learn how to play golf in the spring in memory of Ryan.”
The Hawks will try to make Eustace proud by improving upon last year’s 6-9-2 overall record, a season in which they missed out on the Naugatuck Valley League tournament and lost in the first round of the Class M state tourney.
“The team this year looks like the strongest I’ve seen all four years at Woodland,” Carlos said. “We don’t have the same stars as previous years such as Jesse Menzies or John Merriman, but we will have the strongest team overall. We are going to have to use that to our advantage and try to play team soccer.”
Head coach Tony Moutinho and Pinho are both thinking along the same lines as Carlos.
“I have high hopes for this year’s squad,” Moutinho said. “The majority of the starting varsity players have played together since youth soccer and it’s a cohesive unit on the field. The defense is strong, my skilled midfield has the vision for the game, and with our speed up front we should be strong competitors in the NVL.”
“We believe this could be our best year,” Pinho said. “The most important thing to me is passing the ball, and we didn’t do so well with that last year. I think we need to work more as an 11-man team instead of 11 individuals. If we get our team chemistry right, then we could definitely be top five in the NVL.”
The glue that might make this team’s chemistry the best in the league is how close the team has become in the face of tragedy.
“There are a lot of kids on our team who were really close to Ryan,” junior Adam Baz said. “I feel like our games are a place where we’re all together and we’re all kind of drawn together by the effect that Ryan had on all of us. I think it’s going to make is a really, really close soccer team.”
“We want to play the best soccer we can, but also work harder than we ever have before,” Carlos said. “I know I speak for the rest of Ryan’s friends on the team when I say this: We plan to leave everything we have on the field every single game.”