As the summer wore on and the Manchester Essex girls soccer team went through its usual offseason training and conditioning, second-year coach Alvi Ibanez saw a group of four senior leaders establish themselves as the head of the team.
Unfortunately for Ibanez and the Hornets, one of those seniors, captain Caroline Flores, won’t be on the field anytime soon, as Ibanez said an offseason injury that will likely require surgery has sidelined Flores for what looks like the remainder of the season.
That leaves the leadership responsibility on the shoulders of Flores’ three senior classmates and the Hornets’ other three captains: senior forwards Alanna Vecchiarello and Emily Gaucher and defender Addison Shearer.
“I liked what I saw out of Caroline Flores,” Ibanez said. “She moved the ball well and made great decisions. That’s a big blow. We don’t too many seniors on the team, but the other three seniors have shown great leadership.”
Despite the loss of Flores, though, Ibanez said he’s been most impressed has been the leadership of the remaining trio of senior captains during the team’s early-season workouts. Now all that’s left is the installation of a system that can help the Hornets rebound from last 5-13 campaign.
“So far so good,” Ibanez said. “The leadership of the captains has made the preseason very efficient and very productive. I just don’t know how we’re going to react when the season actually begins.
“We’ve been working to implement a style of play, but we also have to realize that there’s two teams on the field, and my biggest fear is that we won’t be able to adjust (to an opponent’s style).”
To help that adjustment, the former Salem State coach has installed three separate systems. One, which will likely feature four forwards, is to deal with stubborn, defensive-minded opponents. Another is more conservative to deal with explosive teams that possess the ball for large portions of the game. The final formation will look to tip the possession scales in the Hornets’ favor against a similarly-talented team.
At the forefront of the team’s ability to, as Ibanez said, “adjust,” will be junior defenders Sam Charette and Carolyn Cook. Both Charette and Cook will spend the season as center backs, and in Ibanez’s systems, their offensive contributions will be just as important as their defensive ones.
“They have a tremendous amount of playing experience, and those are the ones who I want to be the point guards,” Ibanez said. “I want them to dictate. They have major roles.”
The Hornets will look to turn the page on last season when they travel to Triton on Sept. 13 to open their 2012 campaign. And despite the loss of Flores, Ibanez is confident that the Hornets are set to make a step forward in the CAL this season.
“As a new coach, you rely on the players,” Ibanez said. “And so far, I’ve liked what I’ve seen.”