North Adams, MA- The MCLA Men's Soccer team will kick off its 2017 campaign at home this Friday evening at 6pm against Becker College. The nonconference matchup will be the first of 16 contests on the Trailblazers schedule which features 9 home games including eight under the lights at Shewcraft Field.
Finishing with a .500 record, as MCLA did a year ago (8-8-1 overall, 3-3-1 MASCAC) one might conclude that a rather pedestrian season had taken place. However 2016 was anything but for Trailblazers, especially in league play.
Seven of the eight matches against MASCAC foes were decided by just one goal and the other was a draw. Six out the final seven featured decisive goals that were either scored in the last 12 minutes of regulation or in overtime.
Undoubtedly the high point last season was a mid-October showdown with then MASCAC leading Massachusetts Maritime. Thanks to late goal with just over 11 minutes remaining the Trailblazers left Buzzards Bay with the win and a share of the MASCAC lead.
While dramatic finishes would continue for MCLA sadly their good fortune would not. Ending the regular season with two disappointing league losses that were decided late, a similar fate would be suffered in the MASCAC Quarterfinals as Bridgewater would score in the 85th minute ending the Trailblazers season with a tough 1-0 loss.
In spite of how it ended, the 2016 season provided countless unforgettable moments and performances, many of which involving the ten outgoing seniors (six of whom were starters) who will not be easily replaced.
MASCAC Player of the Year Anthony Basile led the Trailblazers in goals (10), points (22) and tied fellow All-Conference First Team selection Eddie Boating (7 goals, 15 points), with 3 game-winning goals. Along with their departures, Jesse Moore (5 goals, 13 points) and Dylan Pereira (17 starts, 5 points) will leave quite a void on the offensive end. In fact, of the 30 goals scored last season by the Trailblazers only 5 were not scored by a senior.
In the backfield Sakan Sadowsy (17 starts) and Nolan Burke (16 starts) who have also moved on were pivotal in anchoring a defensive unit that gave up only 7 goals in conference play last season.
"We are going to have to figure out a different way to generate goals this year," said Head Coach Adam Hildabrand who is entering his 11th season at the helm for MCLA. "It's going to take a total buy-in to our system from our guys."
Despite the talent that exited with the Class of 2016 and that the Trailblazers are picked to finish 7th according the MASCAC preseason poll, the cupboards are hardly bare in North Adams.
"We had a very good recruiting class a year ago and we have some returners whose time is now," says Coach Hildabrand.
Key returners include recently named tri-captains Joe Tavella, a senior defender who made 8 appearances last season; junior midfielder Khalil Kareh who made 5 starts in his 17 appearances and senior midfielder Oscar Castro who has 49 career appearances and started 14 games a year ago.
In addition, returning forwards Issa Jalloh a sophomore and Romeo Grey a junior will be asked to provide an offensive spark for MCLA while sophomore defenders Ryan Wanek and Augustin Ndayikeza will be called upon to man the backline in front of senior goalkeeper Kamron Anderson. Anderson, a two-year starter finished 2016 with a 1.43 goals against average and has 7 career shutouts to his credit.
A few of the promising newcomers for the Trailblazers who are expected to contribute right away include freshmen Colin Rousseau (Cheshire, MA / Hoosac Valley) and Garrett Derosia (Berlin, MA / Mounta Anthony Union) as well as sophomore Matthew Bluteau (Albany, NY / Cohoes).
After hosting Becker in the season opener the Trailblazers will visit Western New England University on September 3rd before returning home to host the annual CIAO Classic tournament September 8th and 9th.
On September 15th MCLA visits Worcester State to kick off its MASCAC schedule and a week later will host Westfield in its league home opener. The regular season will conclude on senior day October 27th at Shewcraft Field against Bridgewater State.