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After a highly successful regular season in the fall of 2012 where they finished tied for second in Division III at 10-1-3, the Prout Boys soccer team was caught sleeping in the quarterfinals and upset by sixth seeded Davies, 3-0.
It was a disappointing end for the Crusaders, one that left a bitter taste that has lingered into this fall.
With just days left before the first official match on their 2013 docket, Prout is already full bore towards making amends for the loss and improving upon those results.
â€śLast year we had a good regular season and it didnâ€™t go our way in the first round of the playoffs. Thatâ€™s still kind of sitting with me,â€ť said Prout coach Tim Ryan. â€śWe just never showed up that day. The game that really counted was the day we took off.
â€śWe were all shocked at the timing of it all. We thought we were going to make a good run. [Exeter-West Greenwich] and Tiverton, the two really strong teams, we gave them good matches and we were looking for a second match against them later in the playoffs, but we didnâ€™t get that opportunity.
â€śWe want to get back to the playoffs and not just focus on getting there, but getting there, making some noise and doing something with that opportunity. Thatâ€™s the primary goal.â€ť
Though they have just a little more than a week of practice under their belts, Ryan feels the Crusaders are well on their way to a successful 2013 campaign.
They had one of their largest turnouts in recent history with more than 50 students trying out for the varsity and junior varsity squads. After a successful offseason regimen, the team hit the ground running with their first official practices last week and wasted no time getting roster decisions made so they could go to work getting the game plan in place and everyone into the right position.
â€śIn my opinion, the preseason is over,â€ť Ryan said prior to the teamâ€™s practice Monday. â€śMy upperclassmen did a very good job of organizing offseason training sessions and light games, so that helped out quite a bit. The group is pretty familiar with each other in terms of creating a team identity, so weâ€™re beyond that. Last week was mainly me trying to see who we had and who can play at the top level and get an idea of where the fitness level was at, what the skill levels were at. Today is basically Day One of our soccer season. No more preseason, weâ€™re going to work today.
â€śThe next couple days are very important for us in terms of where guys fit on the field, whoâ€™s going to compete for minutes right away and what roles people are going to take on.â€ť
Unlike last year when they found their success from the front back, the Crusaders will find strength this season in their backend, particularly around goaltender Bryan McCormack and captains Josh Moniz and Andrew Mace.
â€śWith the guys that graduated, we kind of had the habit of playing the same way for the last couple of years,â€ť Ryan said. â€śI think these three guys will allow us to change some things up in terms of how we move the ball and how we possess, how we defend.
â€śFrom what I saw last week from a lot of guys who are going to be on our varsity squad, what impressed me are the guys who are able to play quickly out of the back, possess the ball, not just kick and run.â€ť
With the strength on the backend, the biggest challenge the Crusaders face going into this season will be finding a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
â€śFinding some scorers will be really important,â€ť Ryan said. â€śNot just one guy, but several guys to fit into the mix. Not be a one-trick pony, but to have some balance on the team offensively.
â€śIâ€™m not looking for just one guy to bury a bunch of them. Iâ€™m looking for several guys scoring and getting results.â€ť
Prout should have plenty of offensive options with Mace and Adam Thatcher playing in the midfield and Kevin Brew up front. Ryan also feels like the teamâ€™s four freshmen â€“ Nathan Chofay, Jake and Jared Covell, and Kyle McCann â€“ can even contribute on the offensive end as they gain experience playing at the high school level.
Finding those combinations, however, will be the teamâ€™s goal for the next week as they move towards their regular season opener.
The Crusaders will get their first real test this Thursday when they play in an Injury Fund game at Cranston Stadium against Coventry at 4:20 p.m. Proutâ€™s first regular season game will be Friday, September 6 at 3:30 p.m. at home against Rogers.