HARVARD -- For the last two seasons as head coach, the Harvard U18's Nathaniel Adelson has enjoyed success, having compiled a combined 15-2-2 in the French River Soccer League.
This summer's club was no slouch, finishing its 10-game season with an astounding 9-1 record. Was it luck? No, it was accomplished through the hard-work and dedication of Adelson and his rotating group of players.
Adelson enjoyed the luxury of having 10 seniors on the active roster, most of which having competed at the high school level for local legend, head coach Tom Hill.
"I would say I had pretty high expectations going into the season," said Adelson, "because we had a lot of older kids that had previous varsity experience. I kind of had set the bar high, which made it tough to get to sometimes. I think the one time we lost was really a good thing for us. We kind of turned it around after that and we stepped it up. It was the wake-up call we needed."
Harvard's defense was strong for most of the season, but they did experience some lapses midway through the campaign, especially against Algonquin. The Trojans allowed five second half goals, but somehow, they still won.
"We had a couple of games where we had big leads and we unnecessarily gave up a bunch of goals," Adelson said. "It was silly, the amount of goals we gave up. The mark of a good team is having a good defense and showing that you're capable of minimizing mistakes."
Goalkeeper Ryan Kennedy anchored the Trojan defense, along with Roman Vellante, Ben Veno, Matt Olejarz and Mitch Sklar.
Harvard's lone loss came on July 24 at home against an undersized, youthful Millbury. "There were a couple of lessons in that game," the coach said. "One of them was not underestimating a team based on the number of kids they have show up or that they look younger or older. Pretty much, don't make judgments when you don't really know anything.
"They didn't know anything about Millbury, it is not a team that any of them have ever played. The difference was that Millbury played like a team, and we played selfish, individual soccer. It was never more clear than that game."
Harvard did not have any set captains, but Kennedy, Ezra Kraus and Ben L'Ecuyer were the "unofficial" leaders of the club. L'Ecuyer opened eyes with three consecutive multiple-goal games during the final stretch of the season. L'Ecuyer did it all at the forward position.
"He hasn't played forward before," said Adelson. "I figured there would be a good shot he would play there in the fall, that's why I put him there this summer. He is the type of kid you could put anywhere except goalie, and he would be fine. He is one of the more versatile players on the team. The team is going to need a big-time goal scorer for the fall, and I knew he could do that."
Summer soccer is supposed to be fun, but this group knows it is a stepping stone for something much more important.
"I wanted them to get used to winning, because it is going to be expected of them in the fall," the coach said. "A lot of them kind of know it already from being on varsity last year. They understand that they were not good enough last year to achieve what they wanted to, and that this year, if it is going to come together, they are going to have to make it happen.
"There are a lot of seniors, and I think they understand that this is their last chance," he said. "You can tell they are getting focused and motivated to put together a really strong season in the fall."
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