Wednesday, May 09, 2007

2007 Stingrays Season Preview

With warm weather finally upon us, spring (and by extension, soccer, of course) has indeed arrived.

Therefore, let us look ahead to the promise of warmer temps and later sunsets, as the following is a preview to the sunny days and warm summer nights of Stingrays soccer in ‘07.The ‘Rays, coming off a 6-8-2 record (20 points) in the New England Division of the Premier Development League, look to improve upon their 3rd place finish.

Despite narrowly missing the playoffs by four points last year, the team hopes to build on a foundation of returning veterans in an attempt to catapult the club to their first playoff appearance since 1998.

That being said, the team should have no problems finding the back of the net, after scoring 39 total goals (2nd-best in the division) in 2006.

Last year's goal scoring efforts, led by the Rhody Ram tandem of Dawid Badecki (7 G, 2 A) and Danleigh Borman (7 G, 2 A), will both be returning to the team this year. Although the club will be without the services of assist leader Jeffrey Gonsalves, (selected 40th overall by Toronto FC in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft), another Rhody Ram duo of Geoffrey Cameron (4 G, 1 A) and Lukasz Tumicz (4 G, 2 A) will be returning to the club's potent midfield corps. Steady veteran Alonso Villasenor (CCRI) will be returning as well, and should be able incorporate his leadership abilities into a team which has, by and large, little turnover from the 2006 season.

The defending corps will see the returns of their two primary players in Matthew Britner (Brown) and Callum Bissett (URI), with key contributors Mario Aceta (Iona) and Adam Howart (URI) returning as well. Last year's defenders did well to shut down opposing teams, as they helped the club post five shutout wins in '06.

The goalkeeping situation appears, on paper, to be a two-man duel of returning keepers. David Semenza (Brown) and Brendan Fitzgerald (Duke) will both be back in goal for the ‘Rays this season. Semenza saw the bulk of the goalkeeping chores for the ‘Rays last year, going 5-7-2 with an even 2.00 GAA in 14 appearances. However, look for his understudy to stoke the fire of the keeper competition after going 2-1-0 with a spectacular 0.80 GAA last year in limited action.

Of course, with the club recently conducting tryouts to scout additional local talent, there will, no doubt, be fresh faces sporting the royal blue and white on the Pierce Field pitch this season.

There is no question that manager Mario Pereira has an eye for such talent, as he has seen two recent ‘Rays (the aforementioned Gonsalves and Nico Colaluca in 2005) jump to the ranks of MLS during this offseason alone.

So fear not, Stingray fans – the Saturday night soccer at Pierce Field this summer will sure to be just as entertaining as years past, as the ‘Rays begin their quest to achieve playoff glory in a matter of days.

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