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MA boys reload for new season

Senior midfielder Will Burke moves past a defender last week. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 22, 2011
MOULTONBORO – There's a different look to the Moultonboro Academy boys' soccer team this fall. And while the Panthers lost some key pieces to graduation, different isn't necessarily a bad thing for coach Leo Greene's club.

"It's a different looking team with the kids we lost but I think we all still feel like we're a strong team," said senior defender Ryan Savage.

Gone from last year's talented squad are players like big striker Pat Cotter and reliable defender Paul Dubuque.

"Last year we had a lot of size and we were definitely able to take advantage of that," said senior midfielder Will Burke. "This year we've got some more speed. So we'll need to be good about possession and then taking advantage of our quickness."

With Cotter and his 6-foot-4 frame gone up front, expect the offensive attack to look a little different.

"It makes a difference when you're playing balls up high for Pat and he can get to just about anything," explained Burke. "Now you change things a little bit. We'll be more about possession and picking our spots to attack."

The Panthers do have the luxury of returning one of the top goalkeepers in the area, as Mike Donahue returns to the MA net.

"He's the backbone of our team and it's just nice having that kind of trust in your goalkeeper," said Savage. "He makes so many plays that he's able to bail our defense out when we need it. It's a comfort knowing he's behind you and he's got your back."

While Donahue may grab some of the headlines during the regular season run, the Panthers have a well-balanced team to work with this fall. With seniors spread out nicely throughout the lineup, there's plenty of leadership to go around.

"This year we aren't a star-studded team or anything like that," Burke said. "We're not relying on any one guy. Everyone's got a job to do and everyone is going to have to contribute."

Now that they're seniors however, the pressure to perform now isn't lost on Savage and Burke. After dropping a heartbreaker to eventual state champion Wilton in overtime during last year's quarterfinals, the Panthers are hungry to make last season a distant memory.

"It's a whole different game when you're a senior," admitted Savage. "You know what's going on, you know this is the last year you've got to play here. This is my last chance and that's definitely a motivator."

Burke, who scored over 20 goals as a junior last year, has faith that his senior season can be a positive one.

"Honestly I think we'll be alright," he said. "Last year was a tough way to end the season, and I know I didn't have my best game when we got beat. But your work ethic in the beginning of the season says a lot about where you think you'll be at the end of the season and I think we've got the right idea about that so far."

The Panthers open their regular season schedule with a home game against Pittsfield on Sept. 6.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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