After a year off from competitive play, the boys varsity soccer team is aiming for a return to the playoffs this season.
“Our goal is to qualify for the NEPSAC Class A championship,” said co-captain Justin DiCarlo ’22. “The team is focused and ready. If we support each other, and give our best effort every time we step on the field, we can achieve our goal.”
New head coach Mario Williams, who played himself in 2012 on the most recent Hotchkiss team to capture the New England title, said that the team will emphasize building chemistry and coming together.
“It’s easy to be excited about the first several games,” he said. “We play a long season with some of the best teams in the country. Having that togetherness and unity, and a strong sense of identity, will be the number one priority.”
Co-captain Mohammed Nuhu ’23 echoed these sentiments. “The team’s biggest strength will be our ability to persevere through adversity together,” he said. “We strongly believe that unity and togetherness are just as important as scoring goals and winning games.”
Other values Williams says he hopes to instill in the program include hard work, leadership, and coachability. After a year away from interscholastic play, the Bearcats will need to put in extra work to get their fitness up to the level it needs to be, said Williams.
“Last year was peculiar without any games. We’ll have to focus on our conditioning and getting up to match speed,” said Williams, adding that the fitness was necessary both for success on the field and also for keeping players healthy throughout the rigors of the season.
Although many players were able to continue to train with their club teams at various points throughout the last two years, the squad is excited to reunite on the field once more. “Many of us continued to train on our own, but nothing replicates representing your school,” said DiCarlo.
Getting in shape began well before the start of the season, as all of the players were invited to participate in a summer conditioning program specially designed by Director of Athletic Performance and Fitness Brodie Quinn.
This year, the team is fortunate to have a core group of seven seniors, many of whom have been with the team for three or four years. Having the experiences of both last season and the two seasons before that will put them in a good position to keep all the players focused and motivated, said Williams.
Nuhu acknowledged that he and DiCarlo will both need to work to keep the level of focus high throughout the season. “Our most important responsibility is to motivate the team to treat every game and practice session as if we are playing in the New England championships,” adding that he hopes to lead by example as well.
One of the strategic priorities for the Bearcats this year is to increase their scoring output. Williams said he hopes to have players who are fearless and creative in generating scoring chances from all areas of the field. “They need to be clinical in front of the goal, but also know they have the license to play freely and express themselves on the field,” he said. “We expect goals and lots of them.”
On the other side of the ball, the team will look to regain possession quickly and generate offense from defense. “We don’t like to sit, we like to press the ball,” said Williams. “We like to play on the front foot and have other teams adjust to our rhythm.”
Williams added that he was bullish on the future of the program. “It’s a really great time to be a Bearcat and join our program” he said. “We focus on developing individual players, not only as athletes but also as exceptional students and great people.”