MIAA: Soccer has Regular Season, No Tournament PlayOct 26, 2020 12:22PM ● By Christopher Tremblay
Prior to the fall season getting underway, it looked as though the Ashland boys’ soccer program was going to have a record number of athletes coming out for the teams.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still swirling around things things didn’t remain when the actual season got going.
“It looked as though we were going to have three teams (Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman) for the first time in as long as anyone can remember,” Ashland Coach Tiago Mota said. “Unfortunately, due to Covid, kids dropped out and were back to two max teams (20 on the varsity and 23 on the JV squad).”
With Covid still on many peoples minds the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) decided that it was going to split the Tri-Valley League (TVL) up into two divisions based on geography for shorter bus rides. Ashland will suit up against Hopkinton, Holliston, Medway, Bellingham, and Norton. Teams will play four 20-minute quarters each game over a 10-game season with those games being played on the weekends in a home/away format.
Following the regular season there will be no tournament play this fall.
“The kids are ready to play, they did a good job to get in shape and are prepared to play the season. They are excited to get onto the field and play a real game,” the Ashland Coach said. “The rule changes on paper are scary and poses difficulties but I think that everyone will be happily surprised once we start playing.”
Some of the changes that will been enforced this season are no hanging around by the water cooler; no throw-ins, everything will be kicked; no heading the ball; no walls can be created for free kicks and the goalies can not kick or throw the ball past mid-field. Heading the ball seems to be the biggest concern Mota has for his players, but the team is adapting well to the new rule and the team has been policing itself so far.
Although having lost 6 seniors (2 of which were captains that saw extensive action) to graduation, Mota believes his team is ready to challenge for the TVL title.
“We will be looking for success while growing the program. The biggest thing this year is that the kids get to go out and play the game,” the Clocker coach said. “With the returners we have coming back we should be in good shape. The core of the team was sophomores last year and as juniors this season, they should adapt well giving us a strong nucleus.”
Leading the Clockers onto the field will be tri-captains Shea Donovan on defense and Galwin Willasgracias and Luiz Manhaes, a junior. Willasgracias and Manhaes will rotate between midfield and forward, thus giving Ashland a leader at all three areas of the field while setting the tone for the rest of the team.
Donovan will be in the communicator in the backfield, while Mota will be looking for Willasgracias (4-year player) and Manhaes (2nd year player and first junior captain at Ashland) to bring their A-game offensively.
Chris Kourtelidis, a senior forward, was able to find the back of the net four times last year on a team that didn’t score all that much. Mota is looking for a lot from his senior in terms of offense. Kourtelidis has come into camp with a strong shot and in shape.
Another senior, Ben Lymburner-Jensen, will cover the defensive midfield and play center back for the Clockers. After suiting up for Ashland his freshman and sophomore year, Lymburner-Jensen left his junior campaign, but has decided to come back this season. He is a year-round soccer player who should be a key contributor in helping the squad distribute the ball, especially with the keepers having to keep their kicks and throws before the mid field stripe.
Sebastian Ortiz will be playing in his first season with the Clockers after transferring in from New Jersey. According to the Coach, the NJ transfer is a solid player who will roam the middle of the field for Ashland and likes to play the game with simple, but fast-moving passes fitting right into the Clockers style of play.
Looking to keep the oppositions balls out of the net will be junior keeper David Skorodumov.
“He’s one of the best goalies that I’ve seen around the MetroWest area. He has great hands, but will have some difficulty coming out of the net and not being able to slide tackle to break up plays. (Slide tackling will also be disallowed this season),” Mota said. “He also has a great leg, but unfortunately will not be able to use it to get rid of the ball from our end, instead he will have to be the initial distribution of the ball to move it up field.”
Despite all the new rule changes initiated by the MIAA to keep athletes safe from Covid-19, Ashland looks primed and ready to take on its 2020 divisional opponents of the TVL in hopes of capturing a Championship.