by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle September 5, 2013
NEWPORT — The North Country Falcons boys’ varsity squad started the season with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Lyndon Institute Vikings on Wednesday afternoon. Credit for the win could be attributed to strong team chemistry and a balanced mix of upper and lower classmen.
“We got some great minutes from the young guys,” North Country Head Coach James McKenny said after the game. “This freshman class brings a lot of talent out there. They’re so coachable and just a great group of people.”
The Falcons got on the board first as Tyler Royer buried a long corner kick from teammate Travis Tetreault 17:17 into the first half. Throughout the first half North Country applied tremendous pressure on the Vikings. That limited, but could not entirely prevent, opportunities for the LI squad. With just under nine minutes remaining in the half Octavio “Tavi” Vasquez-Tellez threaded through the Falcon defense and slid the ball past North Country Keeper Ryan Paul to tie-up the game at 1-1.
Paul did not fault his defenders for the goal. His defenders did what they needed to do and kept the Vikings at bay through most of the contest, he said.
“We had a lot of big dogs out back working it,” Paul said after the game. “Communication is key and when we talk, we work well as a unit.”
On a team where half of the players are freshmen or sophomores finding that balance of experience and energy can be difficult. Not so for this year’s team, Coach McKenny said.
“They’re all out here for the same reason — they love soccer,” the coach said. “They are true students of the game. We’ve been working hard on having them study the game while in it. It’s not an easy thing to do but they are doing it.”
Situational awareness is key on a team that needs to ensure that it can capitalize on the opportunities it is given. Effective screening and a little luck enabled the Falcons to score the go-ahead goal on Nate Marsh’s kick with 33:38 remaining on the clock in the second half. The ball dropped and wobbled just enough to throw off LI keeper Bijian Soleymani. Soleymani could do little but cup his hands over his face as the ball careened into the corner of his net.
The Vikings found themselves down a goal but did not let that deter them from playing on. The second half was a more balanced affair as both North Country and Lyndon vied for control of the field. Paul would see his skills tested more often in the second half including a potentially game changing diving stop with 3:20 remaining in the game.
“I think we put forward a pretty balanced effort,” Paul said noting that the defense and offense worked in tandem. “We may not be the most skilled team but we’ll out-work you every time. We don’t give up.”
While the attitude and the focus are present, there are still some aspects of the Falcons’ game that could be improved, Coach McKenny said. Establishing control of the ball is a weak spot, but it’s something that can and will be worked on as the season progresses, he said.
“It’s our first touch that needs to be addressed and remedied,” Coach McKenny said. “Establishing that control and then playing to place.”
A smarter brand of soccer will be instrumental for the Falcons to contend this season. The need to bring intensity, not rage, will determine if this squad soars or falls flat. Coach McKenny is confident that his team has the right mentality for success.
“They keep pretty calm and don’t panic,” Coach McKenny said. “They’re pretty dialed in. It comes back to that old saying about working smarter, not harder.”
The boys travel to take on BFA St. Albans on Saturday with a 10 a.m. start.
contact Richard Creaser at firstname.lastname@example.org