MA junior Tristan Price returns up top, where he and sophomore Andrew Porusta pose quite a threat for opposing defenses this fall. File Photo. (click for larger version)
August 26, 2013MOULTONBOROUGH – Make no mistake, expectations are high for the Moultonborough Academy boys' soccer team this fall.
And why shouldn't they be? The Panthers (14-4-1 last year) return a boatload of talent, including a pair of prolific scorers up front and a reliable goalkeeper. Add in some veteran experience throughout the rest of the lineup and thoughts of returning to the Division IV Final Four for the third year in a row are a common theme leading up to the regular season.
"I feel we will be as good as last year…again we're a top four team," said MA second-year head coach Eric Porusta, whose team lost to top-seeded Lisbon in the 2012 semifinals. "Our goal is to go one step more and play in a championship game. The guys are well aware of the challenges and eager to take them on. Our advantage is we're playing the same format and players as last year. We're starting the preseason with a year of success under our belt. Like other teams, we lost a few players, but we're excited with our new replacements."
The goal of playing for a state championship is a lofty one, but for an MA squad that proved a Final Four trip wasn't a fluke by returning there last year, returning there has been the focus during a strong offseason.
"We made the quarterfinals our freshman year and then the semis the last two years so we want to get to that championship game now," admitted senior midfielder Miles Clarenbach. "We came that close the last two years so now it's just about pushing harder and getting there."
Senior defender Aaron Davis agreed with that sentiment.
"I think we're just as good as last year and we have the ability to make another deep run," he explained. "Everyone was pumped to start this year after the success we had last year. We want to get back (to the Final Four) and see what happens."
Junior goalkeeper TJ Marchand will anchor the Panthers from between the pipes, and he's a proven commodity who put together a very strong season in 2012. Aiding Marchand on defense will be a returning core of Davis, junior Aidan Conn and sophomore Eric Dubois. Junior Zach Atwell will round out the unit after a successful year leading the defense on the JV squad last fall.
"Right now everyone's pulling together," said Davis. "We've gained a lot of experience from last year so I'm excited to see what we're able to do out on the field."
The MA midfield is also proven, led by Clarenbach. With All-State performer Drew Sweberg graduated, Clarenbach will be joined by juniors John McClay and Riley Swedberg as well as sophomore Gus Kromer.
"We've been practicing hard for this year," said Clarenbach. "We have a lot of young talent on this team and even though we lost a couple of seniors, the young guys that are stepping up have been pretty strong."
The forward tandem of junior Tristan Price and sophomore Andrew Porusta will snag their share of the headlines this fall. The duo combined for 35 goals last year up front, and with another year of experience they will most certainly give opposing defenses their share of headaches. Price scored MA's lone goal in the semifinal loss to Lisbon on an absolute rocket from distance.
"We have an explosive offense with those two up front," admitted Coach Porusta.
Doug Stockwell (defense), Connor O'Neil (defense) and Dillion Sawyer (defense) round out the returning players, while freshmen Connor Porusta (forward), Dylan McLaughlin (midfield) and Matt Norton (defense) will all see varsity time from the Class of 2017.
"Our team chemistry is pretty incredible I think," Clarenbach explained. "We had seven or eight team feeds last year…who has that many team feeds? So yeah, team chemistry is through the room and we're ready to go."
MA opens its season with home games against Concord Christian (Sept. 4) and Portsmouth Christian (Sept. 6) before traveling to Sunapee of Sept. 9.