The first day of school this week has brought the return of high school athletics, as athletes across the region take to the soccer and field hockey pitches, cross country trails and golf courses to get the fall sports season rolling.
The Waterbury Record checked in with Harwood boys soccer coach Joe Yalicki to see what to expect this season, one year after the senior-laden Highlanders capped an undefeated season with a Division 2 state championship.
Q: Record last year, and playoff results?
A: We went 14-0-1 and won the D-2 title.
Q: Turnout this season?
A: We have four seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores and three freshmen on varsity.
Q: Who are some key returnees or experienced players who will be playing major minutes?
A: Hayden Adams had five goals and 10 assists (a team high) last year. Hayden and Jasper Koliba earned Second Team All-Capital honors last year, and Ollie Hammond started four games as our goalkeeper last year and gave up just two goals.
Q: Who are some key newcomers to the team?
A: Jordan Shullenberger, Nicolas Moran and Cole Hill made the team as freshmen. Gavin Thomsen played junior varsity last year but was called up for the playoffs. Finn O’Hara didn’t play last year but made the team this year.
Q: What are some of the strengths of the team?
A: Our strengths right now are open competition at a ton of spots. It’s made for a competitive preseason with good energy. We don’t have any one guy who we want to play through so we need to play good team ball to do well.
Q: Are there any areas you’re hoping to see improvement?
A: Fitness and conditioning is going to be a focal point, especially early. We also picked up Milton and Burlington on our schedule so those are going to be two very challenging games early on.
Q: Will you be emphasizing any style of play or formation?
A: I want the team to control the game with possession and find the right times to push the ball forward. Our defense needs to support each other and fill gaps.
Q: Matchups with key rivals?
A: Stowe is now in our division which should make the regular season game just a little bit more exciting. GMVS on Aug. 30 is always a fun atmosphere. Milton was the toughest D-2 team that we played last year so it’s nice to have them again.
Q: Expectations for the season?
A: As I said, lots of competition for starting spots and playing time early on. Improvement of tactics and understanding. Hard working players with good attitudes.