BERLIN — Berlin boys soccer Coach Tony Valliere believes his team has a chance to make a strong run in the playoffs this year thanks in part to a number of returning starters who will bring even more experience to a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last season.
Valliere said that he take his cue in part from his player who are confident they can take the team far this season.
“I think we have to take the season one game at a time, but I don’t see any reason we don’t make it past the first round,” Valliere said. “They (the players) want to make a significant impact in the tournament this year. They have the talent, they have the work ethic and they have the soccer IQ to make it happen.”
Valliere returns seven seniors this year, four of whom were starters last season.
“One of our strengths is experience,” Valliere said. “We have a lot of players that have been in the varsity team since their freshman year.”
Valliere also has a strong sophomore class. He noted that he was able to bring up some of his sophomore class earlier than normal, which allowed them to gain experience, especially at the junior varsity level.
The Mountaineers this year are led by five captains, who Valliere said are expected to make a strong impact this season. They include: senior midfielder Griffin Melanson, senior midfielder Ben Estrella, senior midfielder Carter Poulin, senior defender Landon Boucher and junior midfielder Brody Duquette.
“We are really looking to them, their experience and their ability to control the field,” Valliere said of his captains.
In speaking about his strong sophomore class, Valliere said he was expecting big things this season sophomore forward Kolin Melanson.
“He (Melanson) is starting to be a big difference for us,” Valliere said. “He is a hockey guy and he has brought that swagger into the soccer season.”
Valliere said he is also expecting a strong season from sophomore goalkeeper Haden Poulin.
Another sophomore expected to contribute is Jason Sweatt, who Valliere noted played all but 15 minutes last season and will play in a midfield role this year, although he has experience in other positions as well. Valliere added that Sweatt is an impact player and a workhorse for the team.
Senior Griffin Melanson and sophomore Aric Huter are also expected to make strong contributions this season. Valliere said Huter will be paired at the back of the defense with Brady Poulin, who Valliere said played every single minute for the Mountaineers last season.
“He is the epitome of consistency,” Valliere said of Poulin. “He makes every play look routine.
Valliere also said sophomore Malachi Plociennik and senior Brady Buck would see signficant minutes this season, with Buck working in tandem with Kolin Melanson up front to provide needed goals for the team.
Prior to the season, Valliere said that the Mountaineers’ opening game against Prospect Mountain would be a good test of where the team is to start the season. The boys from Berlin took that contest on Aug. 28 4-3 in a back and forth game that saw the Mountaineers take the lead and never give it up, although Prospect Mountain was able to tie the game late, before the Mountaineers won it with just a few minutes remaining.
Another benchmark game Valliere said would be Division 2 Kennett, who the Mountaineers face Monday. Gilford, will also be a strong opponent for the Mountaineers, but the team doesn’t face Gilford until later in the season.
Overall Valliere said while games aren’t won on paper, if he had to pick any team based upon how they look on paper, there isn’t a team he would pick over his own team.
“It is a hardworking group,” Valliere said of his team. “They have played together for awhile. Success will be determined by whether they can play to the level they are capable of.”