Stability is key for NRHS soccerPublished 10:23pm Thursday, March 20, 2014
For the first time in head coach Dustin Tordoff’s tenure, familiar faces with varsity experience will dominate the Nansemond River High School boys’ soccer team.
“This is the first time we’ve had a full roster, almost, coming back to us,” Tordoff said, noting 12 players out of at least 17 from 2013 have returned.
Many of the players are young, but not novices, as 13 boys have at least one year of varsity experience.
Last year, the Warriors went 6-12 overall and 4-6 for the regular season in the Southeastern District. Though Nansemond River lost to Western Branch High School in the first round of the district tournament, qualifying was an important step the Warriors had only achieved once before, two years prior.
Now they enter the first season of the Virginia High School League’s realignment, pitting them against schools of like size for conference and post-season play.
“My early expectations are that we should do well,” Tordoff said, pointing to a couple encouraging wins against regional opponents in pre-season scrimmages.
However, he said it is hard to predict how the Warriors will do against their conference foes from the Peninsula.
Given how things change year to year, he said, “You really don’t know what they have.”
“If we play our game — and barring injury and all of that — I feel like we really should have a successful season, and the goal is obviously to win (the conference),” Tordoff said.
He added he would even like to think his team could push for a regional title and get into the state tournament.
“We have a good chance with the new alignment to really get a little farther than we have in the past,” Tordoff said.
The coach said he likes the new alignment and is happy Nansemond River will still be playing challenging opponents, be it against district or fellow Group 4A schools.
The main drawback he cited had more to do with how the Ironclad Conference does not reward a regular season champion with anything, like a regional berth.
“It’s almost like we’re playing 16 scrimmages and then the season starts (in the conference tournament),” Tordoff said.
This led him to identify avoiding injuries as a particularly important task during the regular season.
The Warriors lost Zach Moore, a quality goal-scorer, to graduation, but the season looks to be defined by not only returners, but additions.
Longwood University commit Chad Kozoyed returns to the program after playing for a travel team last year.
Tordoff hesitated to list standouts because he has noticed all 19 players on his roster have shown the ability to step into a role and be a star, but he highlighted a few who look to make a significant difference, led by Kozoyed.
“Because he distributes the ball so well, he’s going to make an impact in every game he’s in,” Tordoff said.
Sophomore Brayan Morales is one of two Honduran players from whom Tordoff expects important contributions. The coach praised Morales’ aggressiveness on offense and expects him to be a key goal-scorer.
The other player originally from Honduras is sophomore Axel Lopez, who Tordoff sees as an emotional leader.
“He’s kind of an energy source for the team,” the coach said. “He just constantly is lifting everybody up.”
Senior Allyn Letourneau drew praise from Tordoff because of his coachability and hard work, preparing during his first year making any of the Nansemond River soccer teams.
“Even if he’s not a starting player, he’s driving everyone to work harder at practice,” the coach said.
Tordoff said sophomore Brandon Dowden and freshman Jacob Baker have thrived and will be starting defenders.
Junior Tommy Lowry and senior Dustin Telles are currently competing for the starting goalkeeper position.
Team captain and senior Gabe Everette will be someone Tordoff can use all over the field.
The coach said sophomore Daniel Tallarico has stepped up as an outside defender and he praised the whole sophomore class for its improvement, including Yousef Al-Sarraf and Daniel Brickhouse.
Citing the help coach Greg Lomax provides with quality preparation at the junior varsity level, Tordoff sees a steady stream of strong lineups in the Warriors’ future.
Nansemond River looks to start its season this evening at Great Bridge High School.