Boys soccer preps under new but familiar coach

Team blends veteran presence with youth movement

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The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys soccer team has a new head coach, but don’t be fooled. John Walsh is no stranger to the world of Island soccer. As a 19-year boys varsity assistant coach and longtime youth soccer fixture, John knows the local scene, and along with assistant and JV Coach Ricardo Andrade, has a game plan that they hope will pay dividends in Saturday’s opener at Brockton High School.

We caught up with the head coach at a recent preseason practice, where 54 aspiring players were loosening up and optimism was in the air. “With 10 seniors and 10 juniors, we have a strong veteran contingent,” said the coach. ”And nine of those boys are returning starters from last year’s 14-win state tournament team.” 

Equally gratifying is that 15 sophomores are back, and that 19 freshmen are taking their place. This bodes well for the program.

“We want to set a precedent in boys soccer for fielding three teams every year, varsity, JV, and freshmen,” said Coach Walsh. “Having a large freshman presence makes for a stronger JV team, which in turn keeps the varsity guys honest. A competitive situation is good. For a number of our kids, varsity and JV will be a two-way street.”

High turnout is not all this team has going for it. “We have a pretty skillful varsity group this year,” he said. “That means we should be able to concentrate more on game strategy. When your individual skills are sound, you can take the strategic initiative in games.” 

Another plus has been the strong leadership of the veterans. “We have three senior captains,” said the coach, “Morgan Estrella, Jack Holmes, and Emanuel DaSilva. They ran a series of captains’ practices this summer, and that motivation has carried over to our preseason training. The atmosphere has been very positive.”

A scrimmage last Sunday against E.O. Smith High School of Storrs, Conn., provided the team with its first test, which they passed with a 2-0 win and strong team play. “We’re getting comfortable playing together,” said the coach. ”Our players are figuring out some new defensive rotations, and learning to control ball possession and take initiative on offense.”

At Brockton on Saturday the team will embark on what the coach calls “a murderous schedule.” The team will play three recent state champion teams twice each this year. As their rookie/veteran coach sees it, they are up to the challenge.