Saints look for more improvement

Published 8:39 pm Friday, August 5, 2016

By Henry Luzzatto


Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s boys’ soccer team plans to improve on last year’s successful season.

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The team’s record of 7-7-1 and a fourth-place finish in the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools were an improvement on their previous seasons, according to head coach Patrick Whelan.

“We’re coming off one of our more successful seasons and looking to move forward,” Whelan said. “Over the last four or five years, we’ve been consistently getting better.”

Despite the improvements over the last few seasons, Whelan was hesitant to have a concrete goal for the season, saying instead that he hopes to get the best out of the players and take each game individually.

“We don’t ever set out with a ‘championship or bust’ mindset,’” he said. “We want to get the best out of the guys and be competitive in every game we play.”

This season offers plenty of opportunities for players who will be hoping for a successful season. The team’s seniors include defensive anchors Garrett Leicester and Dallin Vetter, who Whelan said could be keys to a successful season.

The team’s crop of seniors also includes Tanner Jackson, a forward who led the team in goals last season.

“He’s one of our best athletes,” Whelan said. “He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”

Jackson led the team with 14 goals scored last season. While his scoring was a huge asset for the team, Whelan said he plans to help Jackson work to become a more complete player.

“I would love to see him work to become a total footballer,” he said.

Though the Saints’ lineup will feature many returning players, there are questions about the team’s lineup this season. Gustav Berner, a senior who was a key player for them last year, may or may not return for his senior year. Whelan says it is a possibility that Berner will choose to run cross country instead of playing soccer.

“He’s a great runner and a great soccer player,” Whelan said. “He’s one of the most gifted student athletes I’ve worked with.”

Whelan said one of the biggest challenges coming into the season is the lack of certainty around the players. Several soccer players play other sports, too, and may switch in the fall, making it difficult to prepare a system before the season starts.

“You never know what choice these kids are going to make,” Whelan said.

Though the older players will be looked at as the team leaders, Whelan said he is excited to see the younger talents who will join the squad.

“We have a few younger players coming, like Aiden Watts and Parker Bono, who are very talented on the ball,” he said.

Whelan said he has no concrete plan for how the team will set up or play next season because of the uncertainty around the lineup. Instead, he says he will adapt to the players he has in order to achieve a successful season.

“Every year, the team is different,” he said. “The challenge is seeing what they bring to the table and figuring out how to get them to play their best.”