Sports Person of the Week
Rolon Steps Up as the Easties’ Keeper
Senior Victor Rolon filled a big void by becoming East Haven’s goalie this season and was also named a team captain along the way. (Photo courtesy of Abby Sawicki)
The East Haven boys’ soccer team was still searching for its starting varsity goalie when the Yellowjackets entered the 2021 season. Senior Victor Rolon, who had played the defender position the past three years, decided to step up by stepping into the net for the Easties and is now leading the team as both a keeper and a captain.
Victor started playing soccer in New Haven’s town league at age nine after getting introduced to the sport by his stepfather Richard. The two would always watch soccer on television, and those experiences made Victor decide to test his mettle on the pitch.
“My stepfather had just started coming into my life. He helped start my soccer career,” says Victor. “Every morning, we would watch a game of soccer. It just grew my love for the sport. Eventually, I started playing it and was pretty good at it. It was something I wanted to do.”
Soccer instantly clicked for Victor when he started playing the sport. Victor found that soccer came naturally to him and just felt right playing it. The more he played, Victor’s confidence grew with every game.
Victor played midfielder during his middle school years, but moved to central defender when he started high school and stayed at that position until his senior season. Victor prides himself on being a versatile soccer player who displays great determination.
“It just comes with hard work. When you’re determined to do something, it becomes easy,” Victor says. “Going from defender was kind of similar. You’re working on the ground. You just try to clean the space up and talk to your teammates. But you have to be way athletic to be in the goal.”
After moving from New Haven to East Haven, Victor spent most of his freshman year with the Yellowjackets’ JV team. Victor was nervous about meeting new people at first, but that first season with the Easties planted the seeds of a brotherhood that would last a lifetime.
“The first season was nerve-wracking. I’ve never gotten so close to a team before. Freshman year was just the start of it,” says Victor. “Coming from New Haven to East Haven, I didn’t know what to expect. I had to meet all new people. It was all very different.”
Victor remained on the JV team through his sophomore season before seeing some occasional varsity playing time as a junior. However, when he came back for senior year, Victor took on his biggest role yet with the Yellowjackets.
Following the graduation of last year’s goalie Asa Myers, East Haven needed a new varsity netminder in 2021. As the Yellowjackets looked, they couldn’t find the right fit. That is, until Victor nominated himself for the job.
Victor wanted to ease his teammates’ concerns about the goalie position, so he decided to give it a shot. After being named the starter, Victor went right to work in order to improve his skills in the net. Now, whenever he steps between the pipes, Victor understands that he needs to be patient, positive, and focus on making every save.
“We knew before the season we weren’t going to have a goalie. We tried looking for one, but we couldn’t find one. I took the first step in saying I wanted to play goalie,” Victor says. “I didn’t want the team to stress about it anymore. They took me in, and I started learning right off the jump.”
When the season began, junior Christofher Torres was East Haven’s only captain. However, once Victor switched from central defender to goalkeeper, Head Coach Mike Papantonio decided to name the senior as a team captain.
“Moving myself to goal was a big push in me being captain, aside from me speaking on the field and always being positive,” says Victor. “When I moved to goal, I think it showed the leadership I had and the leadership I wanted to give to the freshmen that just joined the team.”
Coach Papantonio took over as the Yellowjackets’ head coach during Victor’s sophomore season. After watching Victor compete for the past three years, Papantonio knows that East Haven’s goalie is a team-first player who has made immense contributions to the program’s growth.
“Victor is a pillar of stability and consistency for our program. He is totally selfless and puts the team first,” Papantonio says. “Victor is a vocal leader and has put in the time trying to learn a new position to which he has grown in confidence and ability. We never worry about his effort. We just look forward to watching him grow and develop.”
After he moved to East Haven prior to his freshman season, Victor’s teammates helped get him acclimated to the Yellowjackets and feel comfortable as a member of the team. Now in his fourth season with the Easties, Victor says that those teammates are his family and have helped him become both the athlete and person he wants to be.
“It means a lot. This team means so much to now after four years of playing with them. It’s not just friends and teammates. It’s a family program,” says Victor. “This team has always stuck with me. Coach Papantonio saw the potential in me, which boosted my confidence through the roof. East Haven brought me to where I am today and who I became.”