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Locals hope for an improved boys soccer season

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua South's Jacob Dukeshire, right, could be a key once again for the Panthers this year.

Will success breed success?

Yes, there was a local boys soccer champion in last year’s high school ranks, that title belonging to the Campbell Cougars in Division III.

Can they repeat? And can local teams from Division I, II and IV make tournament strides as well?

The Cougars lost a ton of seniors, but have some good underclassmen back and co-coach Bill Miller (along with son Zach) feel a Final Four spot is very realistic and then go from there, with strikers Joaquin Heller and Jake Oberto leading the way. Goalie Jack Noury, who has had a good preseason, leads a strong sophomore class that right now is the program’s foundation. “We won the championship with big saves when needed and strong penalty kicks,” Bill Miller said.

What will be interesting to see is how teams in Division I improve. Last year both Nashua North and Nashua South looked like true contenders, but lost tough first round prelim games. Bishop Guertin, Merrimack and Alvirne had sub-.500 seasons but that could change this year. Watch out especially for the Cardinals, as they have virtually their entire roster back from a year ago including 10-plus seniors, with over 70 players trying out.

The general feeling is that Pinkerton, Hanover and Manchester Central will the top tier in Division I, but as Panthers coach Tom Bellen said, “We want to be competitive with them. …We have a good core of seniors to help lead the way.” Bellen is guiding the boys for the first time after several seasons coaching the girls varsity.

Nashua North not only has several returnees who have played together throughout youth/club levels in addition to North, plus some freshmen who may make an immediate impact. Thus Titans coach Josh Downing says, “I have high hopes for this team.”

In Division II, longtime Souhegan coach Dave Saxe, whose own team is trying to bounce back from a two-win 2018 season, looks at a strong contending field of defending champion ConVal (whom the Sabers face in their opener) Hollis Brookline, Lebanon, Pembroke and Merrimack Valley, and notes that Oyster River had as many as 90 come out for soccer.

Cavs coach Stephen Martus, with nine seniors back from a 12-4 team that lost in the quarters and goalie Ryan Coutu starting his fourth season, is expecting big things. “This should be a promising season,” he said.

Milford has struggled in recent years and has its third coach in the last four seasons in Olf Mouyaka, who directs a program called “United Through Football Academy” and has ties to the New England Revolution.

In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough is hoping to improve on a .500 team that made it to the quarterfinals, and they plan on doing it from the back end out.

“I have a very strong defense which will help with my freshman goalie, Joe Krug,” Warriors fourth-year coach Kristin Schwab said.

Here’s a capsule look:

DIVISION I

ALVIRNE

COACH: Marcos Viera Filho (second year).

LAST SEASON: 2-14, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Charle Thomas, jr.mf; Nathan Day, sr. mf; Matt Fitzpatrick, jr. mf; Jake Dufour, so.mf; Mason Brooks, so.goalie, Evan Beals, jr. def; Tim Barrett, sr. def.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Cameron Mastroelli, sr. def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jonathan Rudy, jr. mf; Ryan Johnson, jr. def; Brian Arlin, sr. fd.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I’m extremely excited,” Viera Filho said. “Our team was young last year, so it’s exciting to see the progress the returners have made. With the addition of a few key players, our team is going into the season feeling confident and focused on clinching a playoff berth.”

BISHOP GUERTIN

COACH: Valdemire “Rocky” Roque

LAST SEASON: 5-8-3, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Sam Mullett, sr. def; Connor Silloay, sr. mf; John Sullivan, jr. fd; Mike Poublon, sr. goalie; Andrew Schott, sr. mf; Matt McMahon, sr. def; John Handy, sr. mf; Colin McCarthy, jr. mf; Sean Kelley, jr. mf; Calvin Jozokos, jr. mf; Zach Warren, jr. def; William McGregor Shea, jr. mf; Cam Mills, jr. def.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Jack Maclean,sr. def; Will Carroll, sr. def;Geoff Higgins, sr. def; Andreas Kotsironis, sr. def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Thomas Cairns, jr. mf; Ryan Farahani, jr. mf; Ethan Leary, jr. mf; Sebastian Bernard, jr. def.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have a lot of seniors and all of last year’s varsity players have returned,” Roque said. “We had 70-plus attendance for tryouts, an excellent number, which means the program is growing.”

MERRIMACK

COACH: Mark Papp (fourth year)

LAST SEASON: Did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTES/LETTER WINNERS: Aidan Smith, sr.; Andres Ramos, sr.; Carter Sherman, sr.; Jay Wozniak, sr.; Max Lowell, sr.; Jack Goodwin, sr.; Steven Wilson, sr.; Dylan Heiser, sr.; Jonathan Paulhamus; Josh Barnard;Sawyer Hardy, jr.; Connor Lanigan, jr.; Eric Gonzalez, jr.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have an experienced group this season who have stuck together through adversity over the last few years,” Papp said. “We believe their resilience and hard work this off seeason will be rewarded and we’re excited to see what we can achieve.”

NASHUA NORTH

COACH: Josh Downing (fourth year)

LAST SEASON: 9-7-1, lost to Portsmouth in prelims.

RETURNING STARTERS: Ryan Downing, sr. def; Joey Morse, sr. fd-mf; Colin McMahon, sr. mf; Colin Miller, sr. mf; Quinn Hilger, jr. mf; Stephen Norris, jr. goalie/def; Dan Guzman, so.def.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Gabe Buxton, sr. def-mf; Ely Ostler, sr. fd; Joao Sanatan, sr. mf-fd; Alex Durant, sr. def-mf; Matthew Urrea, jr. mf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Preston Thompson, fr. mf; Gauray Maharjan, fr. fd; Simon Costa, so.fd; A.J. Davidovic, jr. mf; Aidan Castro, so.fd; Matthew Ferreira, fr. mf; Makram Elkhach, jr. mf; Nolin Hitzeman, sr. mf.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have a strong core of returning players this season,” Downing said. “Many of these players have played together for several years, so I am expecting this experience to show in their play.”

NASHUA SOUTH

COACH: Tom Bellen (first year)

LAST SEASON: 11-5-1, lost to Salem in prelims.

RETURNING STARTERS: C.J. Dawe, sr. fd; Jake Dukeshire, sr. mf; Riley Olsen, sr. def; Patrick Hyde, sr.def-fd; Lucas Dias, sr. fd; Emanuel Orozco, jr. mf.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Ethan Emata, so. Mf; Max Lopez, so.mf; Fernando Figueroa, so.def; George Eid, sr. mf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Anath Rangan, sr. mf; Jose Ochoa, jr. fd.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “A semi rebuilding after losing players at key positions last year. … We will look to improve each week of the season and peak at the right time to get back to the playoffs and record a win.”

DIVISION II

HOLLIS BROOKLINE

COACH: Steve Martus (fourth year).

LAST SEASON: 13-5, lost to Pembroke in quarterfinals.

RETURNING STARTERS/LETTER WINNERS: Ryan Coutu, sr. goalie; Andy Basque, sr. def-mf; Max Burns, sr. mf; Bryan Wright, jr. mf; Ethan Smith, jr. fd; J.J. Kennedy, sr. fd.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Liam Troddan, jr. mf; Danny Sattler, so.mf; Aidan Dufoe, so.mf; Danny Kennedy, jr. mf.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “This should be a promising season,” Martus said. “They are a really tight group. … They can possess the ball well and we have our returning leading scorers from last season, so we will be strong offensively this season.”

MILFORD

COACH: Olf Mouyaka (first year)

LAST SEASON: Did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS/LETTER WINNERS: Jacob Harper, sr. def; Colby Clarke, sr. mf; Connor Winder, sr. fd; Connor Sullivan, so.mf; Noah Matthews, so.mf; Zach Smth, jr. def-fd; Nich Giordano, so.def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ryon Constable, so. Fd; Aden Cremonini, fr. fb.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’re nowhere near the top four in our division,” Mouyaka said, “but I’m confident that come mid-season we’ll be the team everyone needs to look out for in order to move on.”

SOUHEGAN

COACH: Dave Saxe (24th year)

LAST SEASON: 2-12, did not qualify for tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS/LETTER WINNERS: Tristan Colby, sr. def; Ian Doherty, sr. def; Michael Estabrook, sr. fd; Miles Drum, jr. mf; Jack Forristall, jr. mf; Ethan Lim, jr. mf; Alex Lin, jr. def; Ethan Littlefield, jr. def; Ethan Ramm, jr. fd; Simon Trombley, jr. mf; Ryan Lockitt, so. goalie; Chris Weeden, so. fd-def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: N/A

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’ve matured a bit from last season,” Saxe said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our growth. … Connections and chemistry are developing quickly.”

DIVSION III

CAMPBELL

COACH: Bill and Zach Miller (co-coaches, second year).

LAST SEASON: 18-1-1, won Division III title.

RETURNING STARTERS/LETTER WINNERS: Tyler St. Onge, sr. def; Joaquin Heller, sr. fd; Jake Oberto, sr. fd; Connor Donnohue, so.fd; Anthony Holder, so.mf; Jack Noury, so.goalie.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Sam Gomes, fr.; Etham Wallenmaier, fr. def.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “It’s going to be different from last year for sure,” Bill Miller said, “but there’s a lot of underclassmen stepping up and filling in the big roles.”

DIVISION IV

WILTON-LYNDEBOROUGH

COACH: Kristin Schwab (fourth year).

LAST SEASON: 8-8-2, lost to Sunapee in quarterfinals.

RETURNING STARTERS/LETTER WINNERS: Jack Schwab, sr. fd; Jacob Boette, sr. fd; Dylan Pfeil, sr. mf; Sam Townsend, jr. def; Trevor Swett, jr. def; Paul VanBlarigan, jr. mf; Austin Longval, jr. mf-def; Nathan Browne, jr. mf; Troy Brennan, so.mf; Sean Brennan, so.mf-fd; Ethan Smith, so.def; Dominic Hutchinson, so.def.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Sam Blanchette, jr. mf-def; Joe Krug, fr. goalie-def; Austin Kimball, fr. mf; Matt Hadley, fr. mf-fd; Kenny Begley, fr. fd; Spencer Gibson, fr. mf.

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I’m feeling good about the season,” Schwab said. “We made it to the second round last year and hoping to gain even more this season.”