Pittsfield boys soccer must rebuild quickly after graduating large class of leaders
PHOTOS BY CAROLINE BONNIVIER SNYDER - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLEThe Pittsfield boys soccer team plays against Monument Mountain at the Berkshire County Kickoff High School Jamboree. After graduating 13 seniors from last year's team, the Generals are left with some holes to plug, but the talent to do it.
A Pittsfield and Monument Mountain player battle for control of the ball during the Berkshire County Kickoff High School Jamboree. After graduating 13 seniors from last year's team, the Generals are left with some holes to plug, but the talent to do it.
By Geoff Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
PITTSFIELD — Everyone that came back for the Pittsfield boys soccer team this season knew things were going to be different. That's what happens when you have 13 seniors graduate from the side.
The realization that something was truly different came to Sam Higuera when he stepped out on the pitch for the first day of practice.
"Yeah, it was definitely when we first got out there and me and Max [Whalen] were the ones leading the warm-up," said the junior captain. "I was like 'Wow, we are the upperclassmen now. We are the ones leading the team.'
"The older guys did that for us very well last year, they got us into the system, and now it's our turn to lead them."
And the core of returning players are going to have to lead quickly.
With a brutal Berkshire North schedule ahead, plus another difficult non-league schedule, the 2016 Western Massachusetts Division I semifinalists and co-Berkshire North champions don't have time for rest.
"We graduated 13 seniors last year, but we are ready for a new ear at Pittsfield High School," coach Andrew Antil said. "We still have a few starters coming back from last year, and they are really holding the team together."
The losses come across the pitch, and the Generals are replacing the goalie and the two top scorers from last year. Antil said that throughout the preseason, the goal has been to find how this current crop can work best.
"We still have talent, but it's taking random pieces and putting them in the proper spots," Antil said. "That's my job as a coach, and that's what makes it fun."
For Whalen, who will captain alongside Higuera, the missing faces made the first couple of practices different, but he's excited about what the Generals can still offer.
"It was a good group of kids, our chemistry was amazing," Whalen said. "They all grew up playing soccer together.
"But this group is also super good. We have some really skilled young players, and we have a few good old players, too. We'll obviously miss them, but I don't think we'll miss them on the field."
Players like Higuera, Whalen, Christian Mendez, Patrick Silva and Hedi Abderrahim do give Antil a base to start building his team around. Around them, players rising up from the JV ranks plus a talented group of freshman will have to fill out the team structure. Both coach and players think that the people stepping up have a good chance of finding a home quickly.
"I'm excited to watch [the freshmen] play," Higuera said. "I think they have a chip on their shoulders to live up to their brothers."
Pittsfield opens with three straight games on the road, then hosts Mount Greylock in the home opener.
After that, the team hits the road to Wachussett, then the first meeting against Lenox, the other co-league champion from last year. The opening gauntlet will put the team to the test early — especially the new pieces. That, though, is half the fun for Pittsfield.
"It's going to be a new year," Antil said. "It's going to be interesting."
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254 or @GSmith_Eagle.
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