The preseason may be just a weeks old but so far South Kingstown High boys soccer coach Scott Rollins likes what he’s seen.
“This team has some young kids on it so they’re really fighting each other for playing time,” Rollins says. “This year it’s an open competition so the energy level is really high.”
Rollins is not about to predict just how good team his team will be this year – or any year for that matter – but at least making the playoffs has become the expectation at SK.
“We have enough returning starters from last year and good players that at SK anything less than the playoffs is a really big failure,” Rollins says. “I don’t know how far we’ll go but I’m excited because like I said there’s a lot of unknown and energy.”
The known for the Rebels is over the past decade they’ve been one of the most consistent programs in the state.
South Kingstown hasn’t missed the Division I playoffs since 2002 and each time has made it to at least the quarterfinals, with three championship and two semifinal game appearances.
One of the big reasons the Rebels have had success over the years is their ability to groom players at the junior varsity level to absorb losses through graduation.
Over the past few years that has certainly been the case as SK has taken the last two JV State Championships while maintaining its competitiveness at the varsity level.
“It’s huge. It’s such a pleasure to have a JV coach that prepares them so well,” Rollins says of JV coach Dom Petrarca. “By the time they get to varsity they already know the system and it makes my life so much easier because they got it at the JV level.”
Last season junior varsity players helped fill in the cracks around returning varsity players as the Rebels finished with a 9-4-1 record during the regular season.
This fall South Kingstown once again lost a significant part of its starting lineup but has a good crop of returners that should once again keep the squad in the mix.
Senior defenseman Matt Roberts – a captain last season for the Rebels – is back again this fall, while he will be joined by fellow senior co-captains goalkeeper Nate Eastman and striker Steve Pepe.
“They’re just great leaders,” Rollins says. “They’ve got playing time in the past, Matt was a captain as a junior last year so a lot of kids look up to them. They’re just such great workers.”
Mark Sherman, Oliver Lucier and Joe Toomey saw significant playing time last season and are in line for starting jobs as well.
From there, however, many of the spots are still up for grabs between a handful of first-year players.
One of the biggest surprises so far according to Rollins has been the play of three sophomores; Aidan McCaughey, Zach Misto and Colan Gulla.
In the past it has been rare to find one or two sophomores on varsity at South Kingstown – let alone three – but from day one the trio have been battling the upperclassmen for playing time.
“What I’m most impressed by these 10th graders is they’re not intimidated by the older kids,” Rollins says. “They’ve been playing great in the preseason so far.”
The young South Kingstown players will have a little over one week remaining to try and play their way into a starting spot.
The Rebels will play two preseason games at East Greenwich High School – Thursday at 4:30 p.m. against Chariho and Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 5 p.m. against Narragansett – before opening the regular season Friday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at home against Tolman.