“I think for the past three years we knew that this year’s team was going to be a very good team,” said Denham, who added that while the numbers might not be what they were in past years the strength of players isn’t suffering.
Denham said between 55 and 60 players typically come out trying for a roster spot. This year, the number is in the mid-30s, including only five freshmen.
Denham said he expects the team to have a particularly strong defensive presence. He said the squad includes six defenders who can enter the game at any moment without missing a beat along with two-time all-stater Andrew Jones in goal.
As for offense, Denham said last year’s team suffered from missed opportunities. He said scoring may be a question mark for this year’s line-up heading into the regular season. He said the team should have a “strong” mid-field but will have two new forwards starting.
“I guess we’re going to have to see where the goals are coming from,” he said.
The team is coming off an 11-5-2 record in 2011, a season that ended in the Division I state playoff semi-finals loss.
Captains for the 2012 team include Carson Hall, Andrew Jones and Christian Egglin. All three players said one of the most interesting aspects for this fall’s squad is that the majority of its players have been taking the pitch together for years, from youth soccer straight into more recent premiere league play.
“Last year’s junior class, this year’s senior class has always been a really strong class for soccer,” Hall said.
“We kind of took over as the soccer grade as far as sports go. We’re all really close.”
Jones added that while the three captains have run practices throughout the summer and a majority of the team has played numerous seasons together, the initial week of organized workouts is where the squad truly begins to meld.
“We’re going to be good as long as we keep the ball. We have the talent on the team so hopefully it’s a fun season,” Jones said.
Egglin said that one advantage to playing together for so long is that players have developed an understanding of their respective positions.
“It’s almost like we have a line-up because we know each other so well. We all want to play together so we’ve taken different positions,” he said.
“As seniors we all want to win a championship … We all want to perform day-in and day-out in practice and in games so we can have the best opportunity to win a championship.”
The last time the boys’ soccer team brought home a state crown was 2010, the capstone to an impressive 14-0-4 regular season and the second championship in three years following a strong 14-2-2 title run in 2008. Over the last decade, the Eagles have been a mainstay of the Division I state playoffs though the 2009, 2007, 2005, 2004 and 2002 seasons all ended with losses in the quarter-final round.
Coach Denham said this year’s squad has been on the radar for awhile and while this time of year is usually focused on tryouts, the roster’s familiarity has allowed early practices to focus on fine tuning.
Last Saturday, the Eagles took part in an annual jamboree alongside several clubs from around the state.
The games did not count for the record book but Denham said they do offer plenty of value to coaches and players. Unlike scrimmaging against teammates they have known for years, the pre-season match-ups provide the team with a chance to go up against unfamiliar players in preparation for the upcoming regular season.
The Eagles’ first regular season game, according to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League website, is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7 at Bishop Hendricken.