New look for defending champs
Just three starters return for the Gilford boys' soccer team
|The Gilford boys’ soccer team will look to defend its Division III title as the regular season kicks off Friday in Farmington. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
August 22, 2011GILFORD – It was a fitting end to an outstanding season for the Gilford High School boys' soccer team a year ago, as the Golden Eagles captured the Division III state championship thanks to a 1-0 win over Bow. But with an excellent senior class moving on thanks to graduation and some key contributors lost to prep school, this year's crop of Eagles will have a decidedly different look.
"So many of those kids that graduated last year had played together since they were 8 or 9 years old so I was so happy they were able to go out with a championship," said GHS coach Dave Pinkham, who begins his 35th year in the coaching ranks. "But this year is totally different. It's mainly different because we're going back to soccer 101, starting with the basics."
Gilford returns just three starters from last year's squad, and with playmaker/center midfielder Stefan Defregger now on campus at Dartmouth, the new-look team is forced to develop a new identity.
"For us it's a little weird because we've had basically the same team for the last two years," said senior midfielder Vincenzo Sisti. "But we've got a lot of potential coming up and we've got a good mix of guys who know how to win."
For the team's returning starters, this fall represents a chance to leave a new imprint on the perennially successful program. Sisti, Garrett Workman and Nick Riendeau, all seniors, will look to lead the Eagles on another postseason run.
"Everything we accomplish this year will be our own," said Workman. "Right now we don't have an identity but the pressure is off. I think a lot of people aren't expecting much from us because we lost such a good class. If we work hard and everyone steps up, I think we have the potential to have a really good team though."
Pinkham thinks there's plenty of potential in his inexperienced club, and the veteran coach has been impressed so far in camp.
"You have a team like last year where you lose so much and it's going to take time," he admitted. "But right now, we feel we're making tremendous strides. We've been impressed with the work ethic of the kids that we have and we feel it's a group with a lot of potential. They're listening, trying to do the things we're telling them to do."
A main key to last year's success was the squad's outstanding defense, which kept opposing teams off the scoreboard for large portions of the season. But after losing a bulk of that unit, Gilford looks to rebuild along the backline.
"There's no doubt that defense was the key last year," said Pinkham. "Now, the most important aspect of any success we'll have this year is how quickly we mature back there. We're going to be a big, physical team defensively. We saw some very positive things in our scrimmage against Plymouth, that's a wonderful step. The first group out there didn't give up a goal. So they did some things very well in the back and now we've just got to get better and better every time out."
Workman is expected to be an anchor for the defense, while Sisti slides back into his familiar midfielder role. Riendeau scored the game-winner in last year's state championship game and will get the nod at striker.
Senior Connor Veazey takes over in the net for graduated goalkeeper Connor Hillsgrove, although Veazey did see some action in the Gilford net a year ago. Junior Matt Saulnier looks to be a key contributor on defense while classmates Anthony Diamantoplos (midfield) and David Sykie (defense) have also looked good early on. Seniors Chris Dormody (defense) and Bryce Quigley (midfield) will play key roles this fall.
Pinkham has also been impressed by some younger players, as freshmen Tim Ryan (midfield), Eamon Aldridge (midfield) and Keaton Quigley (striker) have all been consistent during preseason.
"The kids know it's going to be a very difficult year for them so they have to be a complete team, they can't play as individuals," the coach said. "I think we'll catch a few teams though, think we'll surprise some of them."
The Eagles open their title defense Friday with a road tilt against Farmington. The home slate opens on Tuesday when White Mountains comes to Gilford.