Hickok-less Wreckers Start off Preseason with Draw

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Yousef Shahin ’14 sends in a free kick late in the first third of the Wreckers’ scrimmage versus Newton.

Aaron Hendel, Sports Editor

With only one returning starter seeing action, it may have been unrealistic for the Staples boys’ soccer team to expect anything better than a draw in its preseason opener against Newtown.

Yet draw they did, despite only practicing together for four days.

The positives for the Wreckers: the defense was strong, allowing only one real opportunity for Newtown, with a shot from the left side hitting the crossbar midway through the game. Ryan Peterson ’13, starting in goal for the injured co-captain James Hickok ’13, held his own in between the pipes, and the set pieces looked crisp and dangerous.

“Ryan played a great game in goal,” Hickok observed. “I would expect him to get more comfortable with the position as the season goes on.”

The one big negative: after practically their first possession, Staples didn’t really threaten to score the rest of the game.

Staples started the first third (the preseason format is three thirds rather than the usual two halves) with its potential regular season starting lineup, minus Hickok, who will miss the remainder of the preseason with a fractured back. Coach Dan Woog had his boys in a 3-5-2 formation, with Sam Koenig ’13, Andrew Puchala ’15, and Connor Weiler ’14 at left, center, and right back, respectively. Noah Bender ‘13 played left midfield but often dropped back. In the center midfield was returning starter Harry Birch ’13 along with Greg Shikowitz ’13 and Ethan Bradeen ‘13. Jack Scott ’14 played on the right, with co-captain Joe Greenwald ’13 and Andrew Travers ’13 up top. Yousef Shahin ’14 and Jordan McNair ‘15 saw action off the bench.

The best opportunity to score came very early for Staples, after Birch sent in a free kick from inside the left touchline, where Greenwald flicked the ball on nicely, but Bender slid it just wide. Then, for the last play of the first half, Shahin booted a free kick from just past midfield to Puchala, who headed it on to Travers, but Travers’ volley was off target.

Several younger players took advantage of this opportunity to prove themselves, especially Puchala. Puchala, the clear man of the match according to Hickok, made a particularly strong mark, using his size and speed to his advantage, cutting off Newtown’s attackers consistently.

“I was proud to play my first game on varsity for Staples,” Puchala said. “And I had a good experience [playing under] the high level of intensity on Loeffler Field.”

Shikowitz, Birch, and Bender also played strong, physical defense, often going to the ground and winning the ball through slide-tackles. At two different points in the first third, Birch had to come off the field to get a bloody wound cleaned.

“I felt that we were organized and stayed strong defensively as a team,” Puchala said of the team’s collective defensive effort.

“[Defense] will continue to be one of our strong points this season,” Hickok added. “We have a lot of size and strength on the back line this year, so I do not expect to be picking the ball out of the net very often.”

The Wreckers will play a total of four preseason scrimmages plus a jamboree in preparation for the kickoff to FCIAC competition on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at home to Harding. Hickok should be back for that game, but until then it is up to Peterson to hold the fort.

“It was great getting experience in goal,” Peterson said. “I think we have a good season ahead of us.”