Varsity Soccer Up for the Challenge

Published in the September 10, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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After two disappointing seasons, things are finally looking up for the Nashoba Regional boys' soccer team. Even with a young team and a challenging schedule ahead, head coach Don Freda isn't ruling out a return trip to the postseason.

“We'd love to qualify. Since I've been at Nashoba, since 1984, I'd never missed the tournament, but the last two years we did,” Freda said. “I'd like to get back. That's what we're working toward.”

It won't be easy. This year's team includes only four seniors, one of whom (Mark Fratto of Stow) is new to the team. All-star goalkeeper DJ Siewierski of Stow was lost to graduation, as were most of its scorers. Last year's Chieftains often struggled offensively, scoring 19 goals during the season, but players returning this fall accounted for only four of those goals.

And then there's the schedule. The Chieftains play in the very tough Mid-Wach B league, from which three teams qualified for the postseason a year ago. Non-league opponents Wachusett, Algonquin, Leominster and Shrewsbury all represented the Mid-Wach A league in last year's playoffs, while Bromfield won the division 3 state championship.

“We play a mean schedule,” Freda said. “It gets tougher every game.”

Nashoba is 0-1 on the young season following a 3-1 non-league loss to Milford at home on Friday. But as nice as it would have been to start the season with a win, Freda said there was a lot to like about the way the Chieftains played.

Facing into the wind during the first half, the Chieftains gave up two goals to the Scarlet Hawks' Jimmy Nee in the 12th and 35th minutes, but regained some momentum just before halftime when David DiMasi of Stow scored for Nashoba on an assist from Fratto. Playing with the wind in the second half, the Chieftains had a number of scoring chances but couldn't convert. An own goal by Nashoba brought the score to its final margin.

“The result wasn't what we wanted, but we saw a lot of good things on the field,” said Freda, who was particularly encouraged by the even distribution of shots (7 for Nashoba, 6 for Milford). “I would say the game was pretty evenly played. Maybe on another day we would have won.”

Many of the Chieftains are still getting used to playing together, some are playing on varsity for the first time, and others are adjusting to new positions. But Freda has been encouraged by the way his players have responded.

The Chieftains' defense is a case in point. Senior captain and four-year starter Brian Shaughnessy of Stow has returned to his sweeper position, but an ankle injury to regular starter Max Emerich meant more time in front of the goal for junior Matt DiMario (a former midfielder) and Stow freshman Miles Hodge. Both performed admirably, Freda said, as did Stow freshman Colin Montgomery, who came off the bench for some solid minutes in midfield.

“I'm very pleased with our freshman boys. We feel both those guys have a great future ahead of them,” Freda said. “And our sophomore and junior classes look pretty good, so maybe we're starting to turn it around.”

The unenviable task of replacing Siewierski in goal will fall primarily to sophomore Brett Macko, who had seven saves against Milford. Junior Chris Wilson of Stow will also spend some time in goal this season, Freda said. Other Stow players on varsity include sophomore midfielder Blake Korn, junior defender John Ribiero, and junior forward Bobby Durben.

The Chieftains' next game will be Thursday at Marlboro. The Panthers are 0-1 following a 2-1 loss on Friday to defending Division 1 state champion St. John's (Shrewsbury), but have won six consecutive Mid-Wach B titles and are arguably the second best team in all of Central Massachusetts.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239