GROTON -- When a team achieves the ultimate goal of a state championship, the question is what can they do for an encore? In 2011, the Groton-Dunstable boys' soccer team steamrolled their way to a 20-1-1 season before claiming the school's third state title in a 2-0 win over Concord-Carlisle.
Under Coach Sean Wiseby, the 2012 version of the Crusaders have the talent, experience and drive to pull off a possible repeat. But Wiseby knows that while another Massachusetts Division II State Title would be a great accomplishment, Groton-Dunstable has to take care of other business first.
"Every time a team goes all the way and wins states, there seems to be a rush to try to repeat and win it all again," said Wiseby. "Our number one goal is to defend our district title, because you have to do that before anything else can happen. We know we have a lot of things going for us, but we just want to get the 18 points we need to qualify for the tournament and go from there."
The Crusaders will be led into battle by a trio of senior captains. Nate Pomeroy, Mike Keating and Doug Rosa all were key factors in last year's title march and will be the leaders of this year's squad. "Nate has had his name on pretty every award imaginable with the exception of All-American, which he will make a run at this season," said Wiseby. "He is our striker and is going to be the guy for our offense this year after scoring 32 goals and having 13 assists last season. Nate has the talent,
"Mike will start at sweeper, but he is very versatile and played center mid last season. He is very strong and has great skills on the ball. Mike could line up in the front or back for us, but I know no matter where I put him he will play extremely well. Doug is the playmaker of our team from his center mid position. Last year, he fought off some early injuries and then came up big during the post-season. I expect him to elevate his play this season and be a huge factor for us. He is a leader of this team and has a great skill set."
The defense will be strong, as in addition to Keating, seniors Paolo Filho, Adam Kmetz and Eric Stone all return from last year's team. "We are fortunate to have our defense pretty much intact from last year," said Wiseby. "Paolo is a very physical player who uses his strength to attack the ball and make plays. Adam is very athletic, energetic and coachable and does a great job of recovering. Eric is a prototypical left-footed fullback who is very strong and does a great job reading plays."
Rosa will be joined in the midfield of the Crusaders 4-4-2 formation by seniors Morgan Manthous, Alex Murphy and Ben Lutz. "Morgan has a great shot, good speed and is willing to attack the net at any time," said Wiseby. "Alex has great size and knowledge of the game and does a great job of stretching the field for us. Ben is in his first year on the varsity, but has a great pre-season and will be a solid contributor for us."
Flanking Pomeroy will be sophomore Matt Tornaritis at the other forward spot. "Matt is very quick and does a great job with his first touch," said Wiseby. "He has a lot of talent and is working hard on becoming a better finisher."
At goalkeeper, Wiseby has three players who will see time led by senior starter John Nyilis and juniors Jamie Bailey and Connor Maguire. "John was our starter for most of last year before he was injured late," said Wiseby. "He has had a great off-season and is really working hard and will start the season for us in net. Jamie has a lot of experience and has good size, but will miss the start of the season. Connor is a solid keeper who does the little things well and will see some time this year."
In the mix to contribute throughout the season are senior fullback Tim Higgins, junior midfielder Dan McGuiness, junior forward Ryan Hardy, junior midfielder Brogan Walsh and senior fullback Steinar Skagestad. "Tim will be the first defender off the bench and has a good mix of size and decision-making that will help him be a factor for us," said Wiseby. "Dan is versatile and has grown as a player and will definitely see a lot of time this year. Ryan is progressing well and getting better every day. Brogan has a good presence and is working hard on his game. Steinar is an exchange student from Norway and I like what I have seen from him so far."
Wiseby is aware that the target will be on his team's back throughout the season. "We are going to get every team's best effort and we are aware of this," said Wiseby. "The kids are working hard because the bar has been set so high. We have a lot of kids to replace, but the talent is there. The relationships are growing and the main goal is to qualify and enter the tournament healthy. Who knows what will happen after that." the Patriots scored twice in a span of 27 seconds halfway through the first period to take a sudden 2-0 advantage.
From there, they never looked back.