PLAINVILLE - Patrick Gryczewski and Alec Couture have done just about everything they can do for their respective Plainville High athletic programs: tally impressive stats, receive accolades and of course, win.
And now, the two standouts - Gryczewski in boys soccer and Couture in baseball - will soon be trading in their blue and white uniforms for scarlet. Ones where plenty of their friends, families and soon-to-be former coaches and teammates will have ample opportunities to see them play.
On Tuesday afternoon, in the Wood Gymnasium with only close, immediate family attending due to covid-19 restrictions, the pair realized a goal set out since they began playing in youth leagues and officially signed their national letters of intent to play their respective sports at the Division I level at the University of Hartford beginning next fall.
“It feels really great,” Gryczewski said. “It’s what I’ve been hoping for since I started playing soccer and it’s great that it’s finally coming together.”
“It’s always been my dream as a kid and it’s nice to be able to see that dream come true,” Couture said. “It’s exciting. It’s a big moment in my life so far.”
Gryczewski will be joining a Hawks program that went 12-5-4 in 2019 - it did not play in the fall of 2020 due to coronavirus concerns - and reached the American East Tournament final against New Hampshire. A natural playmaker with an affinity for finding the back of the net, Gryczewski, who helped lead the Blue Devils to their first boys soccer championship in 2018, will also have the opportunity to make an impact right away with Hartford, which is set to or has already graduated a number of its top scoring options from the 2019 season.
But perhaps just as important, Gryczewski liked the environment the Hawks had built around the program, noting it was more like a family than a team in the state’s capital, even as he was pursued by a number of other programs. Hartford was one of the first schools to contact Plainville’s All-State player and in the end, that meant something.
“I really liked the school and I really liked the team,” Gryczewski said “I went for a couple of visits and it was just really welcoming and I wanted to stay local, and that was a big part of it.”
Couture is set to join a baseball program that went 6-6 during a shortened spring and went 23-34 in its last full season in 2019 and believes he is a good fit for what the Hawks are trying to do. A standout on the diamond, where he’s shown a versatility to play nearly every position, he’ll have an opportunity to compete for plenty of playing time when he arrives on campus.
That is in part to not only what he was able to do with the Plainville program, but also due to the help of Ed DiPersio, who ran a number of clinics Couture was able to attend and increase his visibility among college coaches. Once Hartford entered the picture, it was pretty much a done deal.
“They were one of the first schools who contacted me,” Couture, an all-conference player with Plainville, said of Hartford. “I enjoyed their campus, their field, their coaches were great and just the community at the University of Hartford as a whole is what really drew me towards them.”
His high school coach, Lou Mandeville, believes the Hawks aren’t getting just a hard worker in their program, but a player who is willing to do anything to help the team as Couture as done over the course of his career with the Blue Devils. On top of that, Couture is always trying to find a way to get better at his craft, a must when playing against top-notch competition.
“Alec is an outstanding student-athlete,” Mandeville said. “In addition to being ranked No. 5 in the Class of 2021, his athleticism has made him versatile on the field. He has started for us since his freshman year and the only position he hasn’t played is center field. Alec is a pleasure to coach. He has positive attitude, puts forth great effort, is coachable and is a supportive teammate. We are excited for Alec’s opportunity and are confident he has a bright future ahead with memorable experiences.”
Hartford men’s soccer team is getting just as dedicated of an athlete in Gryczewski and won’t find many better, according to his head coach Tim Brown.
“They’re getting a really hardworking guy who is never going to give up and always willing to learn,” Gryczewski said. “I’ve learned to handle pressure well. Winning a state championship helped a lot with that and that helped build a lot of confidence.”
“Pat Gryczewski graduates Plainville High School as one of its finest athletes ever and recognized as a top player statewide,” Brown said. “His natural talent is amplified by his continued pursuit of improvement. I discussed with him this year what he thought he needed to improve on. He answered defending and head balls and by season’s end, he mastered both. He locked down the middle of the field. He won every aerial battle. That is the pleasure of having such a player. It becomes contagious. To have him work as hard as he did in every minute of training and every minute of every game constantly inspired and motivated his teammates. From a coach’s view, he is a listener. He takes direction and executes it.”
Now, with the big moment out of the way, the two can concentrate on finishing out their senior years at Plainville before heading to Hartford. For Gryczewski, it hopefully means earning a few more accolades with the soccer season over. For Couture that means hopefully a final baseball season and with it, some more accolades of his own.
Still, they will be a tough pair to replace in their respective sports. They’ve already accomplished quite a bit. The next chapter, however, waits.
“As far as these two student-athletes, they’re exactly what we want at Plainville High School,” Plainville Athletic Director Chris Farrell said. “They’ve done a great job in the classroom and excelled on the athletic field. Patrick was been a mainstay with the soccer program for four years he’s been here. He won a state championship, our first ever [in boys soccer], his sophomore year. A phenomenal kid and just a natural born leader. Alec is a two-sport varsity athlete here. He’s a leader within the basketball program and the baseball program. It’s going to be tough to replace both of them.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com