Upper Perk's Stephen Shelly jumps over top of a Living Faith Christian Academy player for a header in last Thursday's scrimmage.
The early goal for the Upper Perkiomen boys soccer team is to sustain the momentum of a productive preseason throughout the fall schedule.
Second-year head coach Matt Nomland, a math teacher at the high school, has been pleased so far with his team’s efforts and now has a better idea of some of the potential pitfalls of a long season. The Tribe started out 2-1 last season but went winless in the last 15 games (including one tie).
“Last fall, the boys had to adjust to a new coach with new expectations and new style of play,” Nomland said. “Our wins came early in the year, and from there things went downhill as the morale tanked.”
The players themselves have also realized that things have to change and one of the tri-captains, senior midfielder John McHale, thinks the Tribe is on the right track.
“I think more people are for the team instead of themselves,” he noted recently.
Fellow captain Corey Burkhart is in agreement. He was asked what the team had to do to move forward. “[We] have to get the egos under control and the tempers have to be contained. We are a team this year.”
For his part, Nomland is choosing to accentuate the positive on the cusp of the new season.
“We showed that we could be competitive within our division last year, and were able to play with teams for most, if not all, of the 80 minutes on the field.”
Nomland has been happy with this team’s approach. “The boys worked hard in the offseason to come to camp in better shape. We are there physically; we just need some growth mentally. The boys have looked good throughout the first two weeks of preseason. They seem hungry to get some wins this year.”
The players have noted a change in their young coach. “I think he’s more positive this year. He’d be upset [last year] and then we’d be upset,” said McHale.
Nomland is counting on McHale and Burkhart and the third captain, defender Mark Ziegenfuse, to lead the way this fall. McHale was an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention selection last season. Their leadership will be a key in preventing a repeat of last fall.
Ziegenfuse, Ryan Vader, Paul Conrad and Aaron Van Dyke will be the primary defenders.
“One of our goals this year is to play more consistently throughout the full 80 minutes of soccer,” said the coach, who has done a lot of experimenting in the preseason to find the right combinations on the field.
Nomland is also looking for contributions from goalkeeper Chris Mundy, forward Garrett French and midfielder Tyler Fisher, all juniors. French will team with Justin Lesko at forward while soph Joe Gallo will be the fourth midfielder.
Mundy, who missed a large portion of last season with concussion issues, has the biggest shoes to fill, taking over in goal for the graduated Leland Yoder.
“[Mundy] worked hard in the offseason and looks to be much improved from what little playing time he saw as a sophomore,” noted Nomland.
“He has been very good,” Burkhart said succinctly.
McHale has also been impressed with Mundy. “He’s pretty vocal. He’s confident. He’s not afraid to come out and take a hit even though he had a concussion.”
Pottsgrove is the class of the division in coach Nomland’s opinion. “They’ve got some great young players and will be tough to beat.”
Nomland, however, is confident that the Tribe’s improvement will have tangible results. “This year we are again fighting some nagging injuries, but feel we could be .500 or better in our division.”