By Brent Kennedy
River Hill focused on second straight title
Finding ways to improve after rolling off 15 straight victories en route to county, region and state titles is a rather tall order. After all, 19 county boys soccer teams have won state championships over the past decade and none have finished a season on a winning streak of that length.
However, for this year's River Hill squad, which returns seven starters, there's actually a relatively easy place to start.
"Right at the beginning, that's where our focus is. As good as we were at the end of last season, we were almost that bad at the beginning," said River Hill coach Matt Shagogue, regarding his team's 1-4 start last fall, where it was outscored, 14-4. "We learned a lot from that stretch, but I don't think we want to go through that again."
The Hawks have the kind of experience coming back that should help them avoid such a rough beginning. Jake Pace, the reigning Player of the Year, and Jon Talbot, the county's leading scorer last fall, are both back. Second team all-county defender Corey Krewson also returns.
Factor in that there were only six seniors on last year's squad and it's easy to see why Shagogue is excited.
"This team is deeper and probably more talented than last year's group, which says a lot," he said. "Now how that translates into games, well, that remains to be seen. The potential, though, is unbelievable."
Standing in the Hawks' way this fall are a host of county teams, especially a Marriotts Ridge squad that returns all but one starter and went 10-4-2 last year. The Mustangs bring back two 20-point scorers, Phil Martinelli (23) and Josh Stover (22), along with a first team all-county goalie in Paul Killian.
Oakland Mills has its leading scorer and a solid defensive unit back after making the county title game last year; Centennial was the county's most dangerous team not named River Hill at the end of last season with a 7-1-2 record down the stretch; and Long Reach, Wilde Lake, Reservoir and Mt. Hebron all finished within two games of one another in the middle of the standings.
"It seems like I say it every year, but there are no easy games," Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. "Top to bottom this may be the most parity there's been in a long time."
Last season, each of the county's top four squads had a loss or tie against a team outside of the top four. River Hill and Marriotts Ridge ended up with losses to teams that finished with losing records.
Among the changes for this season, each county team will play only one non-county game (not including tournaments) and will instead play all 11 other county teams once. Last fall there were only 10 county contests and some teams, such as River Hill and Oakland Mills, didn't see one another during the regular season.
"It's nice to get to see some other teams around the state, especially maybe another team in your region for playoffs, but in terms of being fair I think you have to play every county team once," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said.
Here's how the teams look:
(1-8-1 county, 2-9-2 overall in 2007)
Top players: Seniors Damani Carter and Carl Eichert; junior Scott Hands; sophomores Subir Nigam, Tyler Parker and Alex Perez.
What you need to know: The Raiders certainly took their lumps last season, losing five games by one goal. The good news is that it was a young group last season and it's another young group this season so the team has the opportunity to learn and grow together. Coach Roch DeFrances says he will start two freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors and three seniors. Before last year, Atholton had posted three straight seasons with at least seven county wins, so don't be surprised to see the Raiders start moving back toward the top.
Top players: Seniors Daniel Benitez, Patrick Downey and Jimmy Mundy; junior David Lucas.
What you need to know: The Eagles took awhile to get going last season, but they turned plenty of heads with wins over Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills to close the regular season. Eight starters graduated, meaning experience could be an issue early, but there are still some leaders to fall back on. Mundy, a returning second team all-county player, anchors the midfield and Lucas "provides our most dynamic attacking play," according to coach Jim Zehe. There are five sophomores on varsity, the most Zehe has ever kept, and one, Aaron Russell, will start in goal.
Top players: Seniors Ryan Ferrera, Travis Guthrie and Will Snyder; sophomore Craig Rollyson.
What you need to know: The majority of the starters are back from a team that made great strides at the end of last season by winning its final two regular season games and making the Class 1A South Region final. Guthrie and Rollyson will be keys on defense, but coach Bill Reigel says it will be up to the offense to put some sustained pressure on opponents and control possession. Ferrera provides good flexibility in the midfield and on defense.
Top players: Seniors Josh Halper and Roberto Aleman; juniors Sam Toriola and Mike Hall.
What you need to know: Coach Jeff Reinoehl says he's pleased with what he's seen out of his young squad so far in terms of work ethic and leadership. Replacing graduated all-county players Abbas Ebrahimnejad and Kyle Touse will be difficult and Reinoehl says don't expect any one player to fill their shoes. Instead, he says it will be how well the group comes together. Halper, a captain, and Toriola will play up top, while the team's other captain, Aleman, patrols the midfield.
Top players: Seniors Justin Sabrio and Andres Salinas; juniors Adam Bialecki, Ryan Mastalerz, Brandon Nowak and Brett Pino.
What you need to know: The Lions won their first two playoff games last year before losing to Centennial in the regional semifinals and coach Jamie Alzin has six starters back from that team. Salinas and Sabrio are both two-year starters on varsity and will be the team's captains and leaders on defense. Salinas even chipped in with three goals on the offensive end last year. Adam Schwemin returns in goal and Alzin says the defense is a team strength. If the offense, led by a group of four juniors, can get going, the Lions could be a team to watch.
Top players: Seniors Josh Chelleh, Steven Lagow, Paul Lee and Costin Ruta; junior Jared Goulette.
What you need to know: The five county wins last year were the most by the Lightning since the school opened in 1996 and coach John Horner says that there is actually a buzz around school this fall about the team. Six starters are back, including first-team forward Josh Chelleh, helping create expectations for another top-five finish in the standings. The midfield is deep with Lee, Ruta and Goulette. The only real question marks are on defense following the graduation of three starters. Lagow, however, does return in goal and should be able to help direct the newcomers.
Top players: Seniors Paul Killian and Phil Martinelli; juniors Nick Koutrelakos, Nathan Lingafelter and Josh Stover.
What you need to know: On paper there are no big holes for the Mustangs, which bring 10 starters back now that Koutrelakos has returned to full strength after suffering a ruptured spleen last fall. The team has a standout offensive tandem in Martinelli and Stover, a midfield that goes nine deep, a lock-down defense and arguably the best goalie in the county in Killian. Last year, the team flipped its record and this year the expectations are even higher. Winning experience is one of the only things separating the Mustangs from River Hill.
Top players: Seniors Kevin Fitch, Jeff Fitch and Garrett Nickles; juniors David Butko and Aiden Hoolachan.
What you need to know: It was a rollercoaster ride for the Vikings last season, who were the only county team to beat River Hill before failing to win a game during the final month of the season. Nickles is one of the county's elite talents, coming off a seven goal, seven assist campaign last fall. Hoolachan, meanwhile, provides a nice anchor in the back. Coach Mike Linsenmeyer says there is plenty of work to be done, but has set high goals for his squad that two years ago won a state title.
Top players: Seniors David Jannati and Josh Yarn; juniors J.C. Abarcar and Kevin Sullivan.
What you need to know: Defense has been the Scorpions calling card the last couple years as they have made their way toward the top of the county and it should be much of the same this fall with Yarn in goal and Jannati and Abarcar holding things down in front of him. Bram Wilson and Sean Wassel will chip in on defense as well. The team shouldn't have any troubles scoring either, as Sullivan returns after leading the team with nine goals and nine assists as a sophomore. Look for Francis Ekiko to help out with the scoring load as well. The team made the regional semifinals two years ago and the regional final last year, something coach Brett Cutler aims to take at least one step further this season.
Top players: Seniors Brian Boring, John Earl, Paul Engelkemier and Sean Silverman.
What you need to know: The Gators made tremendous strides last season after failing to win a county game the year before and don't be surprised if things are even better this season with eight starters returning. Coach Ivan Croft says he's thrilled with how hard his group is working so far and because of that will have depth all over the field. The midfield unit of Boring, Earl and Silverman has the most experience and should be the team's strength, at least in the early going. Other midfielders Ryan Jackson, Chris Martinez and Dillon Barnett will be contributors as well.
Top players: Seniors Rick Cantore, Mike Doyle and Jake Pace; juniors Corey Krewson, Tony Riso and Jon Talbot.
What you need to know: Considering how dominant the Hawks were at the end of last season, it's hard to believe that this year's squad may be better. Pace is a physical presence that excels anywhere on the field, Talbot scored all of his county-best 14 goals last season in the final 13 games and there are six other seniors back that made significant contributions last fall. The biggest problem for coach Matt Shagogue this season may be finding time for everyone. An all-county defender, Krewson will be moving to center back and will do his best to smooth things over for a new face in net.
Top players: Seniors Eddy Maxwell, Robert Procida, Matt Seinfeld, Nathan Smith and Kwabena Yamoah.
What you need to know: The Wildecats were very dangerous last fall with a win over Centennial and a tie against Oakland Mills. And even though six of the team's 11 starters graduated, coach Matt Pickett says the new faces have been stepping up nicely. Of the returners, captains Seinfeld and Smith have plenty of experience. Seinfeld, who has accepted a scholarship to Virginia Military Institute next fall, had two goals and three assists from his midfield position last year. Smith, meanwhile, has been leading by example in practices. Overall the offense should be the team's strength, as Pickett says there are "a lot of weapons at our disposal" that should put pressure on opponents.
(11-1 MIAA C Conference, 17-4)
Top players: Seniors Alex McCurry, Grant Shipley and Paul Smallman; juniors Mike Becker and Sam Orlando; sophomore Steve Handy.
What you need to know: The Yellowjackets have been at the top of the C Conference for three straight years, losing in the final last fall, but will be in somewhat of a rebuilding mode this season after losing eight starters. Coach Jason Bennett says that he's looking forward to the challenge, though, and he certainly has some strong players left to avoid a falloff. Becker, who scored 13 goals and had 13 assists as a sophomore, will be helped offensively by McCurry and Orlando.
(10-5 MIAA B Conference, 11-5)
Top players: Senior Fif Badaki; juniors John Jones and Andrew Trahan; freshman Michael Gamble.
What you need to know: New coach Bernard Hartog inherits a team that lost its top two scorers, brothers Kelson and Conner McAuliffe, but does still return six other starters. Trahan is the team's captain and is coming off a season where he registered a goal and eight assists. He also leads a midfield unit that should be the team's strength.
GCS' players Trahan and Gamble open the season with a hard fought lose to Park, 5 to 2. Gamble scored twice to give the Dragons both of thier goals with both assits coming from Trahan. With key player John Jones out due to sickness Trahan has had to take up the centerback position and still managed to record two assits. Park played exceptionally well to get their first win of the season.
Posted 8:56 AM, 09.05.08 | Permalink