The New Canaan boys soccer team has been a steady force in the FCIAC over the past few seasons, and this was never more apparent than when they captured the Class L title in 2010.
This year, however, new coach Rich Sutherland will be charged with the task of taking the Rams back toward the top of the FCIAC, and he and his players are ready to get underway.
"I think it's important that they set goals. Our main goal is to get to the states and do as well as we can," Sutherland said. "Ideally, I'd like to win more games than we lose or tie. We want to win every game we play and be as competitive as we can be in every single game."
"We have a brand new coach and he's doing some great things with our team," said Alex Robey, a senior captain and outside midfielder. "We're looking to qualify for states and FCIACs so it's going to be a big season. It's like a clean slate for everyone. Rich has come in and we're all working really hard for the start of the season."
With a new coach often comes a new style of play.
"We've got a little bit of work to do, if I'm honest. But that's all purely dependent on the way I want to play. The structure on the way that we want to play is a little bit different, so it's something new for the players. We're going to try to adapt to that and see how it goes," Sutherland said. "I went for boys that can control the ball and play. High school football tends to be more of a physical battle. I'd like to get the ball on the ground and play it."
New Canaan enjoyed another winning season in 2012, but didn't get all that close to capturing another championship, and the season ended in dismaying fashion as the Rams were turned away 4-0 by rival Darien in the opening round of the state tournament.
Captain John O'Rourke, a senior captain and center backfielder, appears to have put the tough ending in the rearview, however, and he looks forward to seeing what he and his Rams can do in 2013 under their new coach.
"We graduated a lot of good players last year, but between that and a new coach, I think we're really looking at a fresh start for New Canaan soccer. Coach wants to win, we want to win and I think it'll be a good season," O'Rourke said. "My ultimate goal would be to win another state championship. That's probably our biggest goal, but along the way is to make it to FCIACs."
"Eventually, I'll have to make a decision on my starting No. 1 because we like to have that continuity, but it's very even between the two of them," Sutherland said. "I'm all about competition and I've expressed to the boys that competition in the preseason is very important. It makes people play to the best of their ability and stops complacency."
Of the 23 varsity players, there are no freshmen and only a trio of sophomores, so the Rams should have experience on their side. The two captains are joined by fellow seniors Matthew Marshall, Ryan Williams, Jack Dolan, Michael Hartnett, Jon Anderson, Eben Jones, Henry Holbrook and Daniel Konstantinovic.
The schedule features several marquee matchups, but New Canaan won't have to wait long for its first big test.
"We've got some good size and a lot of good character here," Robey said. "We've got Norwalk for our season-opener, so everyone's pretty excited for that. It's probably the best team we're going to play all year."
"We've been in some emotional games against Norwalk in the FCIAC playoffs, and Darien is always a good game," O'Rourke said. "Besides that, playoff time. Every game is a good game in the playoffs."
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