NEWPORT–Much like most of the North Country fall teams, this year's boys soccer team is no different. With ten seniors back for the maroon and blue, and an advanced level maturity after a tough 2010 in the Metro, Coach James McKenny is heading into the 2011 campaign with a strong slew of veteran talent.
"This year, as opposed to last year, this is a much older team. We've got ten seniors this year, opposed to five last year. Last year was a great squad, (and) similar to the prior year (2009), had a tough year in the Metro, but it (playing the top tier teams)allows us to compete at a level that gives us an advantage to some of the other teams lower in the state when it comes to play-offs, and that will hold true for this year again."
There is no doubt that it will be a rough go again, as there is no let down in the Metro, but some small changes, starting from the goal and working towards the offense, may give the Falcons the boost they need to jump up to that next level.
Lets start where it usually starts with Coach McKenny's teams, the defense. This year will be no exception as it will be defense first, offense second, and good D always starts with good goaltending.
Taking the reigns from Chad Letourneau will be junior Logan Fortier. Standing well over six feet tall, and with strong athletic fundamentals, Fortier should have the range and quickness to slide into the nets and make an impact for North Country.
" Chad will be tough to replace, but we've been very fortunate over the years at North Country to have great keepers," said McKenny, " We've got Logan coming in as a junior, just an excellent athlete, a great keeper, a big presence, a big kid, so you lose a good goalie, but we were fortunate to pick a good one up."
In the lone preseason appearance I saw Fortier compete in, he was not shy about letting his teammates on the field know where the action was heading.
In front of Fortier, seniors Josh Brien and Josh Bernier have the skill set to be the guy that will be asked to step into the Greg Bronson role, being the backbone of the Falcon defense.
Josh Puckett and Chris Bronson are slated to be the guys in the middle controlling the transition game for North Country, and their two styles compliment each other nicely.
On the duo McKenny says,"Chris is more the physical, win the ball in the air type of player, real athletic, and you've got his partner on the side Josh Puckett who just has a great knowledge of the game and knows what to do with the ball and can help facilitate play through the middle."
Speed will not be a factor for NCU as they have one of the fastest strikers in the state in Dylan Colombia ready to lead the offensive attack. However, unlike last year, Colombia will not be relied upon as much to provide scoring as McKenny will be trying to spread the scoring out amongst his offensive talent.
"This year we have a couple more weapons, so Dylan will (still) be involved in much of the play, hopefully he can get a bunch of goals for us. We've got a sophomore coming up, Nate Marsh, he'll be something to watch in years to come, and Cody Haliskas, who transferred here from Stanstead, he's got a good talent for the ball, so we will have a couple more options this year."
With the bolstered scoring capabilities, what North Country will really have to focus in on this year is making the most of their scoring opportunities, something that was lacking last season.
If they are able to shut down other teams' top scoring threats, and make the most of the afore mention scoring chances, the Falcons should be able to climb the ranks of the Metro conference.
North Country kicks off play on September 6th at MVU. Game time is 4:30.