MCLA men's soccer team eyeing winning season in 2017
"Part of it is, we only scored five goals from underclassmen last year, and a lot of those guys were waiting in the wings. They didn't have the time to score goals," MCLA coach Adam Hildabrand said. "Those guys are going to get their chances this year."
The Trailblazers open their season Friday night, when they host Becker under the lights at Shewcraft Field.
MCLA begins MASCAC conference play on Friday, Sept. 15, at Worcester State.
Last year, the Trailblazers finished 3-3-1 in conference play and tied with Bridgewater for fourth place in the MASCAC standings. MCLA earned the tiebreaker for the MASCAC soccer tournament, but the Bears eked out a 1-0 playoff win.
While MCLA has been to three consecutive MASCAC tournaments, the Trailblazers have not gone beyond conference play since making the ECAC Division III tournament in 1998. MCLA is also seeking its first winning season since going 8-7-1 in 2010.
The Trailblazers are picked to finish seventh in the MASCAC preseason coaches' poll. Worcester State is first in the preseason poll, followed by Bridgewater State and Framingham State. Worcester and Bridgewater each had three first-place votes, but Worcester had five more points.
"Sometimes, it's good when they rank you a little high. I think this year, we're a little lower than expected," Khalil Kareh, a former Hoosac Valley player, said. "I think, overall, we're a little disappointed in it. We'll go out there and see what's going to happen."
The junior midfielder, who played in all 17 games last year and started five, said that not being selected to finish higher has provided he and his Trailblazer teammates a chip on their shoulders.
"Of course. That's the team motto right now, to show everybody that they were wrong to put us as a seventh seed," Kareh said.
The Trailblazers said goodbye to leading scorer Anthony Basile, who had 10 goals and two assists last year. Also picking up diplomas were forward Edward Boateng (seven goals), Jesse Moore (five goals) and Dylan Pereira (two goals). Basile was the 2016 MASCAC player of the year, and Boateng was a first-team selection with Basile.
The top returning goal scorer is rising sophomore Issa Jalloh. The Lynn Classica graduate scored two goals last year.
Hildabrand said that freshmen Garrett Derosia from Mount Anthony and Colin Rousseau from Hoosac Valley could be factors this year.
Otherwise, the Trailblazers have 10 sophomores on this year's roster, and the veteran coach says they'll need to step up.
"It's a different kind of talent. Former players Dylan, Eddie Boateng, Anthony Basile, they were very dynamic. They could beat two to three guys on the dribble," said the coach. "We're more of a team-based offense. We have to play quickly. We've got to get off and create things as a unit before we can step back sometimes.
"Now it's going to be more working 11 vs. 11, on both sides of the ball."
Kamron Anderson returns in goal. He played in all 17 games, had a 1.43 goals-against average and four shutouts. He will be backed up by freshmen Sean Bradshaw and Steven Pafume.
The Trailblazers are looking to get above that .500 mark, the first goal on the to-do list for Hildabrand and the Trailblazers. They'll have to navigate a tough schedule in 2017 to get there.
"That's a goal right away," he said. "Whether it's recruiting, or the culture on campus and how people feel about you, you want to be a winner. Being at .500 is part of that."
Hildabrand said that this year's schedule isn't quite as tough as last year's was. After the opener, the Trailblazers travel to Western New England, and then host Union, Lehman and Western Connecticut in the annual CIAO Classic.
MCLA will host Union Friday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m., after Western Connecticut plays Lehman at 4 p.m. On Saturday, MCLA will play Lehman at 2 p.m., after the Western Conn.-Union game at Noon.
"I would not say it's easy," the coach said of the schedule. "None of the games are going to be easy."
Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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