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Hungry Panthers eye title run

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Junior Eric Dubois and the veteran MA defense will aim to be an anchor as the Panthers have eyes on a D-IV state title this fall. File Photo. (click for larger version)
September 01, 2014
MOULTONBOROUGH A heartbreaking loss in overtime last year was the only thing keeping the Moultonborough Academy boys' soccer team from a third consecutive trip to the Final Four. With nine returning starters and a strong influx of new talent from the freshman class, a deep march through the postseason is once again the goal for a talented Panthers club.

"Moultonborough has never won a boys' soccer state championship," began MA third-year head coach Eric Porusta. "The conversation we had at the beginning of preseason was about working for it and earning it. Nobody is going to give it to them they need to come out and work every single day to make themselves a better team. That's really all it boils down to. Learn from their mistakes and hopefully by the time tournament comes, all the pieces are in place. For a state championship though, a degree of luck comes with it. It's crazy when you get to the tournament, anything can happen."

That was indeed the case last fall, as the second-seeded Panthers watched as 10th-seeded Profile scored the game-winner against the run of play, ending MA's season in the blink of an eye in the quarterfinals.

"The kids were mad," admitted Porusta of the exit. "Losing to Profile, that was one of those games where we took a million shots and they never go in, then they come down and end our season. I know the kids were devastated and I think that's going to be a big motivating factor going into this year. We have a number of seniors who have done very well over the years, and with experience and the drive to win, I think it's going to be a good season."

The forward tandem of senior Tristan Price and junior Andrew Porusta will certainly get their share of headlines this fall. The pair has impressed since teaming together two years ago, though teams will no doubt ratchet up defensive schemes to slow the high-scoring forwards down.

"In years past, teams would go into playing Moultonborough and not really be worried about it. Now when teams come to play us, they'll put their best foot forward and make adjustments to prevent what works best for us and that's the ability to score lots of goals," explained Porusta. "I think they'll still find a way to put the ball in the back of the goal but they're going to have to make adjustments, spread the ball around and find other ways to score."

The midfield will have plenty of familiar faces, as senior John McClay and sophomores Connor Porusta and Dylan McLaughlin all return. Senior Riley Swedberg is also in that midfield grouping, while freshman Brendyn Marsh looks like he'll draw a start in the midfield early in the year as well. Fellow freshmen Ryan Kresco and Cam Bennett can both score and will see time in the midfield for the Panthers.

The defense returns a solid core as well, as seniors Zach Atwell and Aidan Conn headline a unit that also includes junior Eric Dubois. Freshman Tyler McLaughlin has impressed early and will take the spot left vacant by the graduation of Aaron Davis. Freshman Max Porusta and junior Chris Taylor will also aid the defensive cause.

The goalkeeping situation is still up in the air, as senior TJ Marchand returns but will be challenged by classmate Swedberg and junior Aaron Diamond for playing time between the pipes.

The schedule for the Panthers has changed a bit, as perennial power Derryfield, last year's Division IV state champion, is on the docket twice this year, including the second game of the regular season. State runner-up Sunapee opens MA's schedule on Friday afternoon when the Lakers come to Moultonborough for a 4 p.m. kickoff.

"Getting to play Derryfield twice now... now you get to see the best team, you don't just have to read about them," explained Porusta. "So we play last year's champ and runner-up right away."

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