Bacon Academy boys’ soccer has eight seniors who will all play vital roles this year. Picture are seniors (l-r) Keegan Appleby, Steven Laliberte, Nico Matteucci, Dante Ricci, Ian Sargent, Evan St. Louis, and Michael Vilardo (missing Noah Ondras).
Bacon Academy boys’ soccer head coach Skip Starks has a robust senior class, featuring eight players that return with plenty of experience and confidence for the 2022 season.
Ian Sargent earned honorable mention All-Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) as a defender a season ago and returns to head a senior class that includes Evan St. Louis, Nico Matteucci, Dante Ricci, Michael Vilardo, Steven Laliberte, Keegan Appleby, and Noah Ondras.
“They have grabbed the mantle and they are full throttle,” Starks said of his returning seniors. “Last year was a big help. They got that taste of success and this year they’ve got the young guys believing.”
Last fall, the Bobcats won 11 games and a pair of state tournament games — including a dramatic 2-1 win at Weston in penalty kicks — before losing by a single goal in the quarterfinals to the eventual Class M state championships from Stonington.
The team graduated four all-conference players in Ryan Claffey, Sam Blumberger, Aidan McLoughlin, and Luke Gilbert.
St. Louis will be replacing Claffey, who was the team’s standout goalie who is now playing collegiately at Stonehill College. While waiting in the wings, St. Louis said he learned the tricks of the trade from Claffey.
“I have gained a lot of confidence,” added St. Louis. “We’ve had some pretty stellar goalkeepers in the past and observing them has helped. I’m ready to fill that big role and fill those shoes.”
Starks said that St. Louis has been a leader since the first day he stepped on the fields at Bacon, honing his craft at the junior varsity level.
“He’s always had the right mindset. He is excited because this is his time and I have confidence that he will step up,” Starks said of St. Louis. “He’s a really smart kid and his skills have improved each year.”
Starks added that St. Louis’ intelligence, on and off the field, is a reflection of the entire team.
Matteucci, who plays midfield, was named an All-ECC Scholar Athlete a season ago and believes the team has the tools and will to succeed.
“I think we have a lot of guys with a lot of ambition,” said Matteucci. “We have a really strong team in every aspect of the field. I’m very excited for this year.”
Ricci joins Matteucci and Ondras on the midline and said that one of the strengths of the team is the seemingly unlimited depth.
“Everyone has a role on the squad. We have a really deep team and it could take us really far,” added Ricci.
The team’s defense should again be an area of strength. Last season, the Bobcats shutout 10 opponents and allowed multiple goals in only four games.
Sargent, Appleby, Laliberte, and Vilardo will provide senior leadership in the backend and help keep St. Louis clean between the pipes.
Vilardo said the team is particularly deep in the defensive end, adding, “We’ll always have someone ready to play and keep us strong.”
Laliberte believes the closeness of the unit and the team as a whole will lead to production on the field.
“We all get along, and we’re always hanging out and doing stuff together,” stated Laliberte. “That builds the team and makes us better.”
Appleby added, “We have a lot of guys with versatility as opposed to last year when guys had roles.”
Versatility will be one of the main keys for the Bobcats this season. Starks said that the team is talented from the top down and will rotate in waves this year, interchanging players on the field to keep the team as fresh as possible throughout the games.
“Our intent is to put pressure on teams with our depth and a lot of our guys can play multiple positions. We can use that to our advantage,” added Starks.
Colby Butterfeld, who scored the second most points on the team last year, along with Tyler Pulse, Sam Melino, and Drew Ferrigno will also play big roles as juniors.
Starks also noted that sophomore Kaden Treat and freshman Brayden Ward as rising stars that will head the next generation. He said the incoming group of freshman is both deep and talented, crediting the youth soccer programs in Colchester for developing players that are ready to hit the ground running in high school.
“Side B4 Self” is printed on the back of the team’s practice jerseys and will be team’s motto this year. Starks said the players have fully embraced the team-first message.
He also stated that the expectations are high on the field, but most essentially he wants his team to play with class and the rest will take care of itself.
“This group will shine a bright light for the community,” added Starks, who is entering his fourth season as head coach and 10th total season with the program. “I would like to see everyone come out and support them because I know [the players] want to do it the other way.”
The team starts the season with a pair of road games before returning to Bacon Academy for their home opener on Wednesday, Sept. 14 against Granby Memorial, starting at 4 p.m.
Sargent said the goal on the field this season is to hang an ECC championship banner on the wall, adding, “I am really confident in our team this year.”
Leave a Reply.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin