By Adolphus Ames –
Coaches and players throughout the Eastern Shore are preparing to return to the soccer field. The Northampton Yellow Jackets varsity girls soccer team has been practicing since last Friday.
“Ten players are returning to varsity this year,” said head coach Ernest Bethel, now in his fifth year leading the team. “We lost four seniors, including midfielder Olivia Pert and Mariela Montalvo, one of our top defenders.”
The roster change is the biggest challenge the Yellow Jackets face this season. “Losing those seniors will definitely shake things up,” said Bethel. “We’ll have to adjust to new players in those positions.”
Bethel’s goal this season is to take the Yellow Jackets to the state tournament. “Last year, we placed second in regionals,” he said. “We made it to the regional finals and lost to West Point. This year, we want to get back to the regional finals and then head to states.”
The Northampton boys varsity soccer team faces its own unique set of challenges. Unlike the girls team, the boys’ previous season was not a winning season.
“Last year, we went 8-8,” said Eduardo Mateo, assistant coach and boys junior varsity coach. “The soccer program had sort of fallen into a brief decline after head coach John Gorman left a few years ago. We had a hard time getting players to commit and show up at practice. But this season looks very promising.”
Like most sports teams entering a new season, the boys soccer team has to battle roster changes. “We lost six seniors,” said first-year head coach Chase Baxa. “This season we only have three seniors. Our juniors make up the core of our team. We’re going to focus a lot on developing leadership in our juniors and working on core fundamentals.”
Baxa also plans to run a new scheme. “Last year, we played with a defensive mind because the team had a strong goalkeeper,” he said. “This season we’re switching to a more offensive-minded team and will focus on pushing the ball forward down the field.”
Baxa’s and Mateo’s overall goal this season is to win. “We could win the conference this year,” said Mateo. “At least make it to the top two.”
“We have a really solid core of young players,” said Baxa. “I believe we could go 12-6 this season.”
Both Yellow Jackets teams open their seasons the third week of March. The girls will play their first game Monday, March 14, at home against Middlesex. The boys will travel to West Point on March 16.