For a school the size of Rockport High School, it’s rare for a coach to find much depth or experience on a roster, not to mention both. A year after graduating two all-stars now playing in the Division 1 collegiate ranks, it’s nearly unheard of.
But that’s the fortunate situation Rockport boys soccer coach Dave Curley finds himself in this season, as the Vikings return nine seniors and 15 total players with varsity experience despite the graduation of twins C.J. and A.J. Burnham, who now find themselves on the field at UMass and the University of Hartford, respectively.
“I feel very good about this team,” Curley said. “For it to be comprised of nine seniors at a school of our size, that’s huge. They’ve been around three teams that have all done quite well, they know how to win and they know about commitment, so, yeah, I feel pretty good about the entire team.”
In fact, Curley’s senior group has contributed to 46 combined wins over the past three seasons, including last season’s ride to the Division 3 North semifinals. And while that experience doesn’t completely offset the loss of the Burnham twins – who Curley described as perhaps the Cape Ann League’s best striker and defender last season – it certainly helps.
Curley will lean on senior captains Tucker Meredith and Conor Douglass, who enters his second season as captain, to lead the team’s transition into its new season, which begins tomorrow when the Vikings host CAL rival Georgetown (6:00).
Behind Meredith and Douglass, however, Curley struggled to name other players he’ll look to lean on over the course of the year. Not because of a lack of talent, but due to the talent across the board.
“It is really a very, very well-balanced team,” Curley said. “I’d have to name you all 16 players. I’d be remiss to leave the sixteenth player out and only mention five, six, seven guys.”
Curley begrudgingly named the rest of his senior class – midfielders Matt Rostowski, Caden Tibert, Nick Scatterday, Nick Laverde, Kyle Hurst and Luke Catena and goalkeeper Eric Littlefield. And while the depth Curley has at his disposal is a luxury, the Vikings’ recent success in the strong CAL has rendered it almost a necessity.
There was a time when Rockport was overlooked by the traditional CAL powers like Lynnfield and Pentucket. The Vikings’ recent string of success, though, has robbed them of their capability to sneak up on an opponent.
“There is not a breather on the schedule,” Curley said. “The Cape Ann League is very physical and a long season, and injuries are a part of the game, but we’ve got the depth to manage that.
“Our kids recognize the importance of every single game. We get everyone’s best game now considering the success we’ve had. No one looks past us because we’ve beaten the best. But if we don’t play our best day in and day out, we’ll lose.”
The Vikings’ quest to improve on last season’s success begins tomorrow against the squad that ended their 2011 run. Georgetown – traditionally strong and a rival of Rockport’s – looks to be strong as ever after losing in last season’s Division 3 state championship. But for an experienced group that Curley described as “just a bunch of soccer players,” there may not be a better way to kick of the 2012 campaign that the Vikings hope will bring them bigger and better things.
“We’ve always had a great rivalry with Georgetown, and we want to beat them every single time we play,” Curley said. “Our goals are simple: Compete for a CAL Small title. Qualify for the state tournament. Challenge for the D-3 North championship.”
Coach: Art Sims (3rd season)
Last season’s record: 7-9-2
Captains: Patrick Kelley, Sr., GK; Sean Gillon, Sr., D; Cal Cosgrove, Sr., M.
Key Returners: Calvin Kipruto, Jr., F; Peter Dimaio, Sr., F; Alex Davis, Sr., M; Isaac Randell, Sr., M; Matt Carpenter, Sr., M; Alex Dahlmer, Jr. D; Andrew Gossom, Sr., D; Josh Wilson, Jr., GK.
Strengths: Goalkeeping and speed. With Kelley and Wilson returning and splitting games in net, the Fishermen have two all-star caliber goalkeepers at their disposal, while the speed of Kipruto and Dimaio up front may help solve some of the Fishermen’s scoring woes.
Concerns: As always, scoring. While the Fishermen have some firepower up front this season, they will still likely have to battle to score goals as a result of the defense-first style that has become their calling card.
Coach’s outlook: “We’re very heartened because, unlike the last couple years, we’ve started out with a win and a tie and haven’t dug ourselves a hole. It’s a much more optimistic feeling going forward. Coach Sims and I feel this is definitely the most talented group we’ve had in our three years here and we hope they can go a long way.” –(Assistant coach Ted Jones).
Next game: Tomorrow vs. Winthrop (6:00). Started the season 1-0-1 with a win over St. Mary’s and a draw with Lynnfield.
Coach: Rob Bilsbury (13th season)
Last season’s record: 4-12-2
Captains: Chris Xavier, Sr., GK; Liam Aldrich, Sr., M; Alex Walder, Sr., D; Pat Hagar, Sr., F.
Key Returners: Will Nadai, Sr., M; Lucas Firme, Soph., M.
Strengths: Veteran goalkeeping from Xavier. Leadership. Team speed. Team commitment to defending.
Concerns: The gauntlet of the CAL, where the Hornets struggled last season.
Coach’s outlook: “I think we’ve had a pretty solid preseason. Guys came in fit and ready to go. We’ve got some decent returning talent and some good younger kids, and in our scrimmages we’ve done a lot of things well.”
Season opener: Today at Whittier Tech (4:00).