Saints shoot at higher goals

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy's Louie Joseph, center, Michael Luzzatto, No. 3, and Tanner Jackson, No. 25, are working to help the Saints take steps forward this season.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s Louie Joseph, center, Michael Luzzatto, No. 3, and Tanner Jackson, No. 25, are working to help the Saints take steps forward this season.

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy boys’ soccer team has entered the 2015 season with a balanced roster and an aggressive approach.

“We’re not content with just being competitive this year,” Saints coach Patrick Whelan said. “We have higher expectations than ever before.”

NSA went 1-1 last week, its first of the new season.

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“We narrowly lost to (Hampton Roads Academy) in our opening game of the season,” said Whelan, who was pleased with his team’s performance in the 2-1 loss on Sept. 1.

Then the Saints went to Ahoskie, N.C., on Sept. 3 and routed Ridgecroft School 9-0 in a mercy rule-shortened contest.

Whelan said that game “just shows that our team is talented. We played a lot of players out of position to give them more experience.”

Nansemond-Suffolk features five seniors, eight juniors and five sophomores this season.

“We’ve got probably our most balanced team in years,” Whelan said.

Noting the team is also deep, he said, “We had a very competitive tryout. We left a lot of great players on (junior varsity), (so) J.V. is looking to have a great program this year, too.”

This is good news for the Saints, since they saw several players graduate earlier this year, including team captains Phillip Lanzafame, Cole Jackson, Taylor Bridgeman and Josh Gabri, along with Punit Barot and Rohan Koduri.

Last year, NSA went 5-10-2, with its season ending in the first round of the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools tournament via a 3-2 loss to Hampton Roads Academy.

The Saints will compete on three fronts this year, and “our expectations for the season are to improve on those three fronts,” Whelan said.

One front is the conference.

“Last year, we finished toward the bottom of the TCIS, and we’d really like to improve upon that,” the coach said.

Another front is the state. Nansemond-Suffolk missed out on the state playoffs in 2014, and Whelan said he and his players “really look to compete more in our state standings.”

The third front is less tangible but important to Whelan and the Saints.

“We just have a lot to prove to ourselves and as a program,” he said. “We’re looking to grow and take steps forward, not steps back.”

Leading the team on the field will be a trio of team captains — senior midfielder Patrick Crossman, senior center fullback/sweeper David Richter and junior forward Tanner Jackson.

“Patrick’s a workhorse,” Whelan said. “He’ll play any position that’s needed and does so with a lot of energy. He plays with a lot of spirit and is the type of player that the younger guys can look up to for his work ethic.”

Richter drew similar praise from the coach, who said the defender was voted unanimously to be a captain by his teammates.

“Tanner was our leading goal-scorer last year,” Whelan said, and more offensive heroics are expected from him this year.

Other players to watch include senior Louie Joseph.

“Louie’s been in the program for as long as he could have been, and he’s another player that has just grown tremendously,” Whelan said. “As far as his talent goes, he’s just a reliable player on the field.”

Junior Ryan Griffin enjoyed a big sophomore season and started this year with an outstanding game against HRA.

Junior Garrett Leicester has “really taken huge strides over the offseason,” Whelan said. “He’s just playing very well for us.”

Of returning sophomores Evan Sciacchitano and Chris Morgan, Whelan said, “I’m expecting big years from those two, defensively and offensively, respectively.”

Nansemond-Suffolk (1-1) hosts Portsmouth Christian School this afternoon.