Sunday October 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Taconic boys soccer team has experienced a few growing pains this season.

The Braves have just one point in Berkshire County's tougher North Division and two wins overall. Stricken by personnel issues, Taconic coach Mark Wasnewsky said his team's promotion from the South has been tough.

"You got to come prepared every game," Wasnewsky said. "Even the Southern Division teams, there's not been any team in this league that you can just walk in without being prepared for."

Yet for the Braves to even be in the North is an accomplishment. Wasnewsky, now in his fourth year, has guided Taconic there. The Braves have made the Western Mass. Division I tournament each of the last three years, reaching the quarterfinals twice. Wasnewsky compiled a 26-18-9 record over that time, including three South Division titles.

This year has been a struggle, however, with the Braves rarely having a full roster available. When they do, they've played well, like in a 1-1 tie with defending Western Mass. runner-up Longmeadow on Oct. 1.

"It's a big transition," said senior Mike Connors, who had the Braves' only goal against the Lancers. "It's hard to come from the South. ... It's a big change."

Continuity has been a huge part of the team's growth. Wasnewsky said he's rarely had more than six seniors. This year's group has six seniors, but also a huge junior class. That includes forward Dominic Nda who said the lineup now includes players who have been together for years.


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"It's a good feeling because we knew that we could do it," Nda said. "Coach had a lot of confidence in us. That's why he moved us up to the North. He knew the teams up there we could compete with and even get some wins out of it."

Nda scored in a 1-1 draw with Wahconah on Columbus Day -- the Braves' lone point in North Division play. It was a turnaround from a loss earlier in the season to the Warriors.

It's another step in a long process. Wasnewsky said he's tried to build the Braves up over the years by focusing on possession soccer and not just relying on long balls down the field. He's put a focus on refining skill sets, working on things as subtle as touch on the ball.

"The skill level is definitely better," Wasnewsky said. "A lot of these kids that are seniors now and juniors, they started on varsity as freshmen."

After watching Taconic take a point from his squad, Wahconah coach John Kovacs said the new kid on the block has promise.

"It takes a while because you battle everyone twice," Kovacs said. "I think they have the talent. They definitely have the talent. It's just a matter of getting used to the day-to-day battles."