Lenox boys soccer sees its inaugural jamboree as tough preseason test
LENOX -- It's only the third day of high school boys soccer practice, but the teams on the fields Saturday afternoon in Lenox were going all-out as though there were playoff berths at stake.
When no roster spots are guaranteed, that's the way you have to play.
"We didn't lose many, so there aren't a ton of spots," Lenox senior center back Kyle Boyer said. "But we've got every kid trying to get a spot on this team right now."
For the first time, the Millionaires hosted a "jamboree" of scrimmages to get themselves and other county teams meaningful minutes in the first week of the preseason. Lenox played 40-minute games against Hoosac Valley, Monument Mountain, Wahconah and Eastern Mass. foe Belmont.
Typically, John Kovacs' Warrior squad would play in a jamboree in Easthampton. When Lenox co-coach David Pugh organized one in the Berkshires, though, Kovacs was happy to enter his side.
"It's a good time to get some of your younger players some action, to see if they can play, and get your varsity team ready for the season," he said. "We've got another week. We play a week from Tuesday against Easthampton, down there."
Pugh wanted to host a jamboree after seeing his team struggle with conditioning early last season. With Lenox working on a new formation, the Millionaires can also get some practice in that front against tougher competition than just themselves.
The Lenox coach would like to keep the jamboree going every year, ideally staying on the Saturday after the opening day of the preseason. He noted that many of the teams expressed a desire to return in 2015.
"I wanted, as a coach, to give our players an opportunity to get some good soccer in before the season started," Pugh said. "We thought, with this half-day scrimmage against four teams, it would help us diagnose where our players are as far as conditioning."
Each team playing Saturday qualified for the postseason in 2013. Hoosac, Monument and Wahconah all reached the Western Mass. Division III tournament; Lenox was a Western Mass. D-IV semifinalist; and Belmont reached the Northern Mass. D-II quarterfinals last year, going 13-4-3.
Belmont was one of the first teams Pugh contacted. Lenox co-coach Simon Borrett said a D-II team is a better challenge for everyone involved, due to it being from a bigger school with a bigger talent pool.
"They're a bit bigger, a bit faster ... it's a good test," Borrett said. "You want to challenge them."
While the challenge for the Millionaire players is to make the squad, the challenge for Pugh and Borrett is to select the players. They would like to keep a 15-player varsity roster with two or three "floaters" between the varsity and junior varsity teams, with a total of about 30 players between the two rosters.
The roster should be set early next week, with a couple more days of double-session practices -- physical conditioning, then "tactical" skill workouts, according to Borrett -- before a Wednesday scrimmage vs. Mount Anthony (Vt.) and a Friday jamboree in Pittsfield.
"Everybody thinks they know who the squad is, but a lot of these kids are making the decisions really hard on the coaches," Boyer said.
Kovacs, meanwhile, gets to see how his kids -- including junior midfielder Brendan Pugh, the son of the Lenox coach -- look, as well as getting to see two of the teams Wahconah will face in North Division games this year. The Warriors are in the North with Lenox, Monument, Mount Greylock and Pittsfield.
"We know we've got that leadership and experience, which is good," Kovacs said. "Lenox is in that same boat. I think Monument is finding themselves, because last year, they had all the seniors. And you can see them improving."
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