HARWICH ─ The return of students to area high schools also means a return of student athletes to their chosen sports, many of which get underway this week, including at Monomoy Regional High School and Cape Cod Tech.
So what can fans expect this season? At Cape Tech, coach Bill Reilly is looking to breathe new life into the girls volleyball program, while at Monomoy, teams are getting set to start competing in their new leagues. For soccer, field hockey, and cross-country that means the Cape and Islands League, while the football team joins the Mayflower Athletic Conference Comprehensive Division. Read on for more.
Heading into his fourth year at the helm of Monomoy boys varsity soccer, coach Keith Clark said he's looking forward to his 2016 season.
“I am very optimistic about this year and the future of the program with over 45 boys trying out prior to school beginning,” Clark said.
Clark described this year's team as “young” with only three seniors and six juniors, but Clark said the group comes with experience and includes players such as senior forward Akeem Bucknor, a two-time South Shore League All-Star and three-year leading goal scorer, and Rudy Fratus, senior captain and three-year starter at center midfield.
“He's a defensive midfielder that breaks up plays and starts counter attacks,” said Clark.
Joining Bucknor and Fratus will be Sean Spies, a junior midfielder who was a 2015 South Shore League All-Star and a top player “with tactical awareness and vision to find the penetrating pass,” Clark said. Junior Ben Thomas returns as a midfielder, bringing to the game a “tireless work rate and competitive edge,” while junior back Brian Butcher is a “combative but technical back that can start the attack, deliver a quality cross and defend.”
Junior Nick Meehan, an “athletic, physical and intelligent defender” joins the Sharks for his first year, with Clifton Wilson, a sophomore, rounding out the starters. Clark describes Wilson as an “intelligent defender that reads the game well, has size, good reactions and speed.”
Rounding out the team are Clifton Giovanni Green, Jon Frisbee, Perry Comeau, Connor Coughlan, and Ted Clifford in goal.
“There are some very good young players in the program and that bodes well for the future,” Clark said.
Clark is thrilled to be part of the Cape and Islands League, and said that he feels it will level the proverbial playing field.
“The change in leagues will be a benefit to the student-athletes academically and competitively,” Clark said. “I think the significant reduction in travel will benefit the boys in their academic performance and the level of play will be more suited to our ability.”
The team's first game is slated for Friday at 4 p.m. against Sturgis East at Monomoy.
Jenn Peterson is enjoying her second year at Monomoy, and also feels the move to the Cape and Islands League will be beneficial.
“I am really looking forward to the season, and think the move to the Cape and Island league is a very good one for the girls soccer program,” Peterson said. “We are going in with the thought that you only get one chance to make a first impression and this is a great opportunity for Monomoy soccer to redefine our program. The girls will really be able to control how the program is seen throughout the league. They are excited about this and have worked extremely hard this preseason to prepare.”
The team's first home game of the season is scheduled for Tuesday against Cape Cod Academy with a 4 p.m. start.
There's a familiar face on the sidelines of Monomoy field hockey.
“Emma Fernandez was our JV coach about six years ago, went to Florida, and came back,” said head coach Cheryl Poore. “She's probably one of the most inspirational speakers and the kids are just eating it up. They love her.”
Fernandez was a top Harwich athlete who parlayed her prowess into a Division 1 field hockey scholarship, and is now back to work with the Sharks.
“She was a scholarship athlete from here, and probably one of the best forwards I've ever had,” said Poore. “I'm thrilled to have her back.”
Fernandez joins returning assistant coach Addie Weeks in leading the team along with Poore.
In regards to her team, Poore said that while she does have seven seniors on her roster, she considers her team young.
“I wonder what other coaches would think if they see where we started and where we end up,” Poore said.
The total roster is at 25, which Poore said is a challenge given that her numbers have been higher in the past, and lower numbers mean not as much depth on the bench. But that doesn't mean the Sharks won't be competitive, even in their new league.
“We always feel we have the advantage in conditioning and stick work, but that is not going to get such a small group to that sectional final,” Poore said. “We're going to be a passing team this year. It's all I'm working on. I've got to get them to grasp that we can have superior skills, superior conditioning, and still lose if our circle play isn't perfect. That means both ends of the field, defense and offense, have got to be tighter.”
To help make that happen, Poore's athletes delved into myriad field hockey camps this summer before completing the pre-season with a stellar scrimmage against Duxbury that Monomoy won 7-2.
“To beat them 7-2 blew my mind,” Poore said. “Duxbury is a perennial powerhouse D1 state tournament team. [They were] missing two seniors on defense, but still I think it would have been at least 5-2. I was really pleased with that start.”
As the official season gets set to start, Poore has navigated a few lineup changes, including a goalie replacement that saw one player depart and Tessa Richardson step up.
“I think she will be a very, very good goalie,” said Poore.
Richardson is joined by the team's four captains, Marina Small, Hannah Potter, Carlee Tolley, who was the team's leading scorer last year, and Colleen Donovan.
Though the team is part of the Cape and Islands League and will face teams such as Sturgis East and West, they will also play a host of D1 non-league teams, as well.
“Most of our non-league games are D1,” said Poore. “We've got a really tough schedule: Nauset, Barnstable, Sandwich, Notre Dame Hingham, and Plymouth North.”
Poore said that while the league switch benefits most of the teams at Monomoy, the field hockey team was used to the more challenging South Shore League.
“I also don't like that the league is so small that one game can determine the championship,” Poore said. “A league shouldn't be that small.”
The team's first home game is set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. against Barnstable.
Monomoy golf coach John Anderson is excited about the 2016 season for the boys team, which already competed against Sturgis East, winning 36½ to 17 ½.
“We are the favorites to win the Cape and Islands League this year,” Anderson said. “We have a very strong top three with Jacob Poitras, Matt Veary, and Christian Pavlakis, all of whom are captains.”
Adding depth to the squad are Peter Lucarelli, Owen Van Sickle, Ian Johnson, and Jay Masiello, while Anderson gets a boost from new JV coach Jack Farrell, “who is an amazing addition to the staff and well known in the Cape golfing community,” he said.
Next up for the Sharks is a match at Eastward Ho on Monday against Nauset beginning at 4 p.m.
Cape Cod Tech
Cape Tech head football coach Chris Leonard is always excited for the start of a season, but this fall he's got a little extra enthusiasm when it comes to his Crusaders.
“This is an interesting year for us because we've got six kids that have been starting on varsity since their freshman year,” Leonard said. “These kids have been playing a lot of football for a lot of years, and now it's their senior year. The talent that we have inside that varsity is very nice. We've got high expectations for the guys coming in.”
Leonard said there are a few key players to watch this season.
“We've got a young back named Archer Estinvil, a big part of our offense, and Justin Lucas, our quarterback, has really improved since last year,” said Leonard. “Our offensive line is probably our biggest benefit right now.”
The team also became a member of the Mayflower Athletic Conference, which Leonard said is a good move.
“They have three divisions – voke large, voke small, and comprehensive,” Leonard explained, adding that the Crusaders will be part of the comprehensive. “It's exactly what we've wanted. We want to play the majority of voke schools, which we are. There are some different things to think about when you're a vocational school.”
One such thing is the fact that many students have jobs, which is the case with many Tech athletes. Leonard said on his team, one student works as a plumber when not in academic classes, while another is an electrician.
“We've got to kind of work our schedule around that. We practice in the evenings so kids can work and come to practice afterwards,” Leonard said. “The employers work with us as well. They get the kids out to play high school football. As important as their jobs are, they're still kids who want to play football.”
Tech will travel to Monomoy on Friday for their first game of the season, an outing Leonard is looking forward to.
“It's a big game for us,” he said. “It's our crosstown rival. It's great to be doing it underneath the lights, competing for town bragging rights.”
The team's first home game is Sept. 17 against Tri-County, with a 1 p.m. start.
“We really had a good game against them last year, and I'm looking to improve this year,” Leonard said. “This is the year we put tech on the map and really make some noise in this Mayflower League.”
Cape Tech volleyball coach Bill Reilly is ready to rejuvenate the sport at the school, and with gusto.
“I'm taking over a floundering program and I hope to put them on the map this year,” Reilly said. “There are a lot of athletes that have been waiting to have direction and great coaching, and I'm looking forward to giving them that.”
Reilly, a longtime volleyball official, has been enmeshed in the sport for years and is a passionate fan.
“It's the fastest growing sport in the world,” he said. “It continues to outpace soccer, and I know that volleyball on the Cape continues to grow.”
At Cape Tech, for Reilly's squad, the key word will be preparation.
“They have to prepare,” Reilly said. “Preparation will be huge.”
A part of that preparation is club ball, which Reilly said five of his players participated in last winter. What he appreciates about the sport is that it's very fan-friendly.
“It's a great spectator sport,” he said. “When the girls are playing it with heart and passion it's one of the coolest sports in the world to watch.”
Reilly has high hopes for his team, and that includes the playoffs.
“I'm not coaching them to the level of this league,” he said of the Cape and Islands League. “I'm coaching them to be able to play against Bourne and D-Y in the playoffs. It's a very different mindset this year.”
The team's first home game is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 15 against Nauset.
Cape Tech boys soccer coach Ivan Popov has a goal in mind for his 2016 team.
“I'm looking forward to reaching the playoffs this season,” he said.
Popov feels his team has a good chance of achieving that goal and scoring more than a few of their own during their upcoming season.
“They look pretty good,” he said. “Promising. I think I have a good team. I'm looking forward to the coming season. I feel confident and I believe in my players that they'll be able to reach the playoffs.”
Popov has a roster of 25 players between JV and varsity, which Popov feels is a testament to the increasing popularity of the sport.
“Soccer has been growing a lot in the United States,” he said. “It's the biggest sport in Europe, and all over the world. My goal is to get more kids playing soccer at the school and involved in the sport, as well.”
Popov said the sport not only helps athletically, but also off the field.
“Through the sport you can build your principle strength,” Popov said. “[Athletes] will become better people. I'm positive. Always. I have high expectations.”
The team's first home game is Friday at 4 p.m. against Cape Cod Academy.