In the previous five seasons, the Brookline boys’ soccer team compiled a 55-14-22 regular-season record, reaching the Division 1 North sectionals each of those years.
This season, coach Jeff Katz and his Warriors are in unfamiliar territory after losing the majority of last year’s varsity squad.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Katz, who stopped short of calling this a rebuilding or transition season. “Some of it is just basic things, like communication. These little things that maybe you would take for granted. Our older guys have a ton of passion and we need a lot from them, but they don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
Off to a 1-5-2 start, the Warriors find themselves in the basement of the Bay State League’s Carey Division. Last season, they did not lose their fifth game until the first round of the postseason against Somerville.
In a town that seems to crank out highly-skilled players, this year’s team is finding out the hard way that things are different on the varsity level.
Thankfully, Katz is manning the ship and you can be sure that he will bring out the best in what his players have to offer.
“The thing is, this team is not a team that is going to get destroyed by the top teams,” said Katz. “We can go out and play Weymouth 0-0, but we’re not good enough to lose our focus for a second.”
For now, Katz knows the key to getting the most from his young, talented group, is to slow things down and work the normal, strategic Brookline game plan, which starts with staying within themselves.
“We get impatient, we get overexcited and that’s our kryptonite,” said Katz. “Our kryptonite is us. When they play with composure, they slow the game down. When we have that level of composure, that’s kind of where we’re trying to get to. You don’t have to play at a frenetic pace.”
Perennial power Lincoln-Sudbury has been forced to regroup in a similar manner to Brookline after losing 10 starters and 15 varsity players from a team that went 14-0-2 last year.
For a program that had lost only four regular-season games over the past three seasons, Lincoln-Sudbury has experienced growing pains at the beginning of the season, going 3-3-1 out of the gate.
But much like Katz’s approach, Lincoln-Sudbury coach Dave Hosford is keeping things in perspective and not waivering from the yearly goal of reaching the postseason.
“We’re still finding our own identity a bit,” said Hosford, who is familiar with how to handle a host of new talent after losing 14 seniors two years ago. “We’re still undefeated in the DCL Large and that’s one of our main goals. We’re realistic with where we are and where we want to go.”
After seven straight postseason appearances, the Warriors are in dire straits, needing to win virtually all of their remaining games to keep that streak alive. Not a tall task when you think about the heady competition in the Bay State League.
But Katz is not about to let his troops think their goal is anything different than what it’s always been in his 11 seasons at the helm for Brookline.
“At this point we need to win seven of them to make the tournament,” said Katz. “What I’ve been saying, is that this team, if we somehow trudge through this, we would be a dangerous team going into the tournament. We can play. We’re not giving up, you just got to try and get better every day.”
Games of the week
No. 10 Danvers at Beverly, Tuesday, 4 p.m. — A pivotal game in the Northeastern Conference’s North division as the Falcons look to continue to ride the leg of captain Eric Martin in an attempt to run the table this season.
East Bridgewater at Cohasset, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. — The South Shore League’s top teams face off for the first time this season as the potent East Bridgewater offense tries to crack a Cohasset defense that is allowing only 0.7 goals per game.
Scituate at Hanover, Thursday, 3:30 p.m. — The Patriot League rivals clash for the top spot in the Fisher conference. Both teams come in with sub-1.00 goals against averages, but Scituate will need to find a way to quell Hanover’s 3.4 goals scored per game.
Braintree at No. 14 Wellesley, Thursday, 3:45 p.m. — As some of the traditional Bay State Conference powers struggle through rebuilding years, these squads have moved toward the head of the class in one of the most competitive leagues in the state.
Franklin at No. 12 Oliver Ames, Friday, 3:30 p.m. — The Tigers remain undefeated atop the Hockomock League’s Davenport division, thanks in large part to keeper Dave MacKinnon who has allowed only one goal this season. The Kelley-Rex division leading Panthers will look to give them their toughest test to date.