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Boys soccer preview: Belchertown, with new coach, seeks to reclaim sectional championship

  • Evan Fournier, right, of Belchertown, shoots during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tony Martel, of Belchertown, shoots during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zach Lajeunesse, of Belchertown, goes to the ball during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Belchertown goalie Christopher Tilton makes a save during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Belchertown soccer coach Zach Siano talks to his team during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Max Caron, of Belchertown, gets control of a pass during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Alex Szarkowski, of Belchertown, eyes an incoming pass during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tony Martel, of Belchertown, heads the ball during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Evan Fournier, of Belchertown, shoots during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jacob Torna, of Belchertown, moves the ball during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chris Ingram, of Belchertown, gets control of a pass during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Jabish Brook Middle School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff writer
Published: 9/8/2018 9:51:07 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Talent coming in has always replaced talent going out for the Belchertown boys soccer program.

Each year’s large class of seniors makes way for bench and junior varsity players itching for their opportunity.

The Orioles’ coaching ranks are no different. Longtime coach Tony Almeida retired following Belchertown’s loss in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament final to Southwick, and his assistant and junior varsity coach over the past six years, Zach Siano, took over. It ended a 22-year run that featured seven Western Mass. titles, three state finals appearances and a state championship in 2013.

“He realistically took this program and built it from the ground up. I can only hope to maintain the level of success he’s had,” Siano said. “Belchertown is synonymous with western Mass. soccer. I’d like to think this is one of the elite programs in the state. To be given this chance and for Tony to hand the reins over is quite the honor.”

The transition has been nearly seamless. Siano has coached nearly every player on the roster in one capacity or another and has built relationships.

He’s also not overwhelmed by moving into the lead spot. Siano has coached boys tennis at Belchertown for seven seasons.

“It’s the little things, the behind the scenes things that helps,” he said.

The players also go the coach they wanted. They were upset when they found out Almeida was leaving, but Siano’s appointment assuaged some of the disappointment.

“Coach Almeida has been fantastic, the amount of championships he brought to us is going to be hard to live up to, but I believe Siano can,” senior captain Evan Fournier said. “We wanted him to be the coach, and now that he is we’re 100 percent behind him and he’s behind us. It’s the perfect combination.”

Siano brought up the team’s loss to Southwick in last year’s final during the first few days of training this fall. He noticed a lackadaisical effort in practice and informed where that leads.

“I said, ‘Guys we’ve already been through this. I saw a Southwick team that had no business beating you last year outwork you to every ball,’” Siano said. “These guys groaned and moaned and I said, ‘If you think this is the only time I’m going to bring this up this year it’s not.’”

Belchertown lost in the sectional final the last two years and in the semifinals the previous season after winning four straight championships and a state title from 2011-14.

“For us it’s just fuel this year, having lost in the finals two years in a row,” Fournier said.

Fournier scored a stunner of a free kick to put the Orioles ahead in the first half of last year’s final. He’s one of just four returning starters from that team. He’ll captain Belchertown this year and has embraced the responsibilities of the armband.

“In years prior, I may have focused on myself more, maybe my stats scoring and assists, but that’s not the way it should be,” he said. “In order to be successful as a team, a captain has to motivate his teammates and make sure they’re doing the right things ahead of his own performance while still performing.”

Ben Laclair captained the Orioles last season and led them with 21 goals. It will be up to a host of Orioles to replace that production rather than one person. Fournier, Jarod Bolton, Zach Lajeunesse and Alex Szarkowski should step into larger scoring responsibilities, and don’t count out rotation players like Evans Payen and Evan Walters-Zucco.

“There’s always someone who comes out of nowhere to score a ton for us,” Siano said.

In terms of stopping the other team, Chris Tilton will be in goal. He’s Siano’s starter after playing in seven games last year to relieve injured starter Sean McCarthy.

“Going through all the years of soccer, I feel like I’m ready for it,” Tilton said.

Owen Raines and Connor LaFlamme will pair as center backs in front of him to form the core of the defense. Wingback, midfield and forward spots around Fournier will get ironed out from the remaining players as the season approaches and progresses.

“Tony did a great job of managing talent, and I can only hope to have half the success that he’s had but it’s really our youth coaches how big soccer is in this town. They lay the foundation for us,” Siano said. “We need to redesign how we play, rebuild this program after graduating all-state players and 10 seniors, and we need to reclaim what a lot of these guys think is theirs in a Western Mass. title.”

Amherst Regional

COACH: Michael Rudd, seventh year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 2-1 to Longmeadow in WMass semifinals

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Ammar Abdel-Maksoud, Sam Brainin, Matt Essig, Liam Felton, Justin Guaytanof, Marshall Hanke, Reece Nelson, Itai Zilberstein; Juniors — Lucas Morales-Fernandez, Brayan Rivas Martinez, Marco Soares Delgado.

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Zaim Elkalai, Soul-Jah Ferreria, Akeme Mallory-Hilson, Denilson Martins, Giovanni Rivera, Martin Thompson; Juniors — Levi Blinder, Liam Carpenter-Shulman, Patrik Cooper, Jaydon Perez, Junior Pontes da Veiga; Sophomores — Evan Perry, Zach Watson-Stevens.

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have 14 seniors, eight of whom boast varsity experience. Essig and Morales-Fernandez both saw time in goal last season and provide Rudd options between the posts. Amherst featured a balanced attack last year, so there isn’t one target man to replace. The Hurricanes will likely need time to jell, as few of them have played together at this level.


COACH: Zach Siano, first year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 2-1 to Southwick on penalty kicks in WMass final

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Jarod Bolton, F; Evan Fournier, M; Connor LaFlamme, D; Alex Szarkowski, F.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Maxim Caron, M; Hayden Miltz, D; Chris Tilton, G; Juniors— Korey Houle, D; Chris Ingram, M; Tony Martel, M; Owen Raines, D; Sam Rogalewski, D; Evan Walters-Zucco, D.

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Evans Payen, F; Cam Szarkowski, D; Jacob Toma; Juniors — Zach Lajeunesse, M; Jon Mahaney, D; Mattteo Picardi, M; Sophomores — Nathan Schiffer, F; Freshmen — Joe Bianco, M; Hunter LePage, D; Shay O’Neil, M; Andrew Pope, D.

OUTLOOK: The Orioles want to reclaim the Western Mass. title after two straight finals losses. They claimed four straight crowns from 2011-15. Fournier, the captain and UMass commit, will be a leading force scoring and creating for his teammates. Tilton has the keeper position locked down and is familiar with center backs LaFlamme and Raines. Siano takes over for Tony Almedia, who retired after a 22-year career.


COACH: Mike Soucy, third year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 3-0 to Southwick in WMass quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Jacob Bacis, D; Drew Caires, G/F; Vinnie Catalano, D; Henry Ferland, M; Tyler Karakula, F; Nic Soucy, M; Fernando Tenesaca, F; Chris Williams, M; Mohamed Zabir, M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Godson Baptiste, M; Joe Brough, G/F; Sam Colenback, D; Ryan Cowan, D; Adam Johndrow, F; Tyler Mason, M; Juniors — Erik Geertsma, D; Sam Ferland, M; Anthony Soucy, F; Marcus Tenesaca, M.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Calen Hebert, D; Dylan Schmidt, F; Matt Zielenski, D; Sophomore — Lucas Wojtowicz, D.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles are loaded with experience with seniors all over the field. Easthampton returns its keeper Caires and five out of its six top scorers. The Eagles ended a seven-year playoff drought last season and are hoping for another step forward.

Frontier Regional

COACH: Evan Horton, first year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 1-0 to Southwick in 2017 WMass semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Connor Bagdon, M; Peter Bronke, GK; Doug Hanieski, M; Noah Jacques, D; Juniors — Ben Morse, D; Tenzin Tsundue, D/M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Tim Barrington, ST; Ryan Loveland, D; Kip Newman, M; Ari Vanegas, ST; Juniors — Sam Battisti, D; Ethan DeMaio, M/ST; Sam Felton-Emrick, D; Thomas Kurkolonis, M/ST; Connor Waitkus, ST.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Elliot Johnson, D; Sam Mackin, D; Emmett McGranaghan, D; Vick McNutt, ST; Sophomore — Tanner Finch, M; Freshman — Jon Wooley, ST/M.

OUTLOOK: The Red Hawks are under new leadership after former coach Dale Totman was fired for off-field issues. Their talent level, however, remains. Bronke is back in net for a third season, while Bagdon will control the midfield while also moving forward to attack. Two of Frontier’s top three scorers graduated, but Vanegas, Barrington and a host of others should pickup the slack. The defensive core remains largely intact.

Gateway Regional

COACH: Tim Gamble, 20th year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2016, lost 4-0 to Monson in WMass semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Jon Folley, G; Tom Hyjek, D; Ethan Lee, M; Anthony Piquette, M; Junior — Jake Thayer, M; Sophomores — Evan Cortis, M; Ben Hyjek, F; Matt Morin, D; Zach Otterback, D; Joel Sakaske, M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Aaron Trask, M; Freshmen — Preston Coffey, G; Ryan Morin, F; Jacob Robbins, D.

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Nick Herman, D; Sophomores — Joe Holmes, F; Dylan Lafreniere, M; Justin Marge, D; Freshmen — Joseph Federici, F; Landon Richard, M.

OUTLOOK: Ten starters return from a team that suffered a challenging 2017 campaign. The Gators do not return one player who scored multiple goals last year, but the team can build on the experience it gained last season. Folley returns as the starter in net, and Gateway brings back its defensive core.


COACH: Todd Dorman, 16th year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2016, lost 3-1 to Lenox in WMass semifinals.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Max King, M; Ryan Shaw, D/M; Juniors — Joshua Hart, D/M; Mitchell L’Abbee, M; Michael McGreevy, M/G; Sophomores — Michael Flaherty, D/M; Dylan Moriarty, F/M; Steven Pisano, D/M; Nolan Sullivan, D/M; Freshman — Tyler Sudsbury, M/F.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Amir Karamshahi, M; Dominic Nomakeo, G; Matt Walz, F/M; Freshmen — Liam Brown, M; Max Brown, M; Eighth grade — Roman Bullock, D/M; Carter White, D/M.

OUTLOOK: 2017 was a rough year for the Rams after they graduated 14 seniors the prior year. The group had growing pains but returns more seasoned behind Shaw, a four-year player. Moriarty proved a capable goalscorer as a freshman, and the Rams will need more of it. They only had 12 goals in 18 games last year. Granby also needs to replace stalwart keeper Ryan Walz, and that responsibility will fall to either McGreevy or Nomakeo.

Hampshire Regional

COACH: Dan Moynahan, 19th year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 3-0 to Monument in WMass first round.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Anthony Bartolomeo, M/D; Andrew Cebula, D; Piotrek Jacek, M; Mike McColgan, F; Tyler Millay, M; Justin Szwajkowski, F/M; Juniors — Augosto Brasil, M; Mark Craig, D/M; Cooper Fern, M/D; Aidan White, F; Sophomores — Colin Boyle, G; Bryce Illingsworth, D; Freshman — Grady Fern, M.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Ryan Hufnagel, D; Cade Lachapelle, M; Alex Pallante, M; Freshmen — Elan Kuntz, G; Matt Solan, M.

OUTLOOK: The Raiders reached the postseason last year behind a stout defense. Leading scorer McColgan is back but recovering from a wrist injury. Szwajkowski will move between the forward and midfield spots. Large returning group aiming to take a step forward in the tournament. Raiders will lean on team speed.

Hopkins Academy

COACH: CJ Holt, fourth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Schmid, Division 4


LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 2-1 to Drury in WMass semifinal

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Mark Peirce, M; Dougie Pierce, M; Junior — Erik Berg, G; Sophomores — Jack Feltovic, G; Greg Kucinski, M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Austin Bushey, M; Jupiter Fetler, D; Liam Higgins, D; Gage Spanknebel, F; Junior — Noah Scanlon-Dean, D.

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Nate Waldon, M; Sophomores — Josiah Beck, M; Andrew Czajkowski, M; Bobby Klesch, M; Chris Mushenski, M; Addison Phifer, F.

OUTLOOK: Hopkins has to reload. The Golden Hawks only have two returning starters and one of them is injured to start the season. Pierce (not to be confused with Peirce) and Spanknebel each registered double-digit points last season and will be leaned on offensively. Hopkins plays a challenging schedule that Holt hopes will prepare it for the Division 4 tournament.


COACH: Brian Brown, third year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2016, lost 6-0 to Agawam in WMass first round

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Jarrett Borer, G; Christian Rodriguez, F; Juniors — Paul Erikson, D; Ben Gomes-Rapoza, M; Evan Renauld, G; Edwin Zaruma Burin, M; Sophomores — Jonathan Marshall, D; Shahzair, Tasneem, D.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Chris Raphael-Riley, M; Juniors — Noah Aronstein, M/F; Jay Mahoney, M; Andre Marquis, F; Henry Michalski, M; Justice Rogers, M.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Sam Curran, D; Tommy Harte, F: Logan Tumal, D; Sophomores — Nate Jones, M; Lars Sippel, M; Freshmen — Alex Caldonaro, M; Bodhi Cantor, F; Riley Cole, D.

OUTLOOK: Northampton struggled in a building season last year, but things appear to be turning up with eight returning starters. Keeper Renauld gives them stability at the back. Rodriguez is Northampton’s leading returning scorer with two goals and an assist. Gomes-Rapoza and Erikson will provide leadership as captains, as will Raphael-Riley and Tasneem.

Smith Academy

COACH:Jason Duncan, 11th year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2014, lost 5-1 to Monson in WMass semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Max Bartlett, F; Jack Zigmont, M/D; Juniors — Sam Dadmun, M/F; Brandin Jamrog, M; Sophomores — Michael Bassett, D; Lucas Donahue, D; Ryan Herlihy, F/M; Michael Mendyk, D; Nate Moynihan, M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Kyle Kirkland, M; Junior — Gram Hancock Pezzati, M/D; Sophomore — Patrick Lavelle, F/M.

NEWCOMERS: Sophomore — Gavin Buckingham, M/D; Freshmen — Sam Dobson, M/F; Will Dobson, D; Roger Grondin, F/M; Wyatt Jeffress, G/M; Aidan Pedersen, G; Eighth grade — Ryan Belina, GK.

OUTLOOK: Matt Bouley anchored Smith Academy’s defense in goal and will be replaced by a combination of freshman Jeffress or eighth grader Belina. The entire defensive outfield is back, led by senior Zigmont. Smith Academy only has two seniors, but its youth has experience. Six of its underclassmen played last year.

Smith Vocational

COACH: Maz Weider, fifth year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2017, lost 3-1 to Pioneer Christian in WMass first round

ROSTER: Seniors — Mike Brown, D; Thomas Doyle, G; Austin King, D; Zachary LaChance, F; Anthony Palazzi, M; Cameron Perry, M; Jacob Rafus, M; Juniors — Paul Berg, M; William Childs Florio, D; Tucker Scott, F; Sophomores — Bruce Beilunis, D; James Biddulph, M: Dylan Fil, D; Nathan Gagliardi, D; Aiden Illingsworth, F; Kouis Kollmeier, G; Garvin Thomas, M; Freshmen — Alex Biddulph, M; Orien Blake, M; Seth Boissonault, D; Cole Boisvert, F; Tyrese Cordova, M; Jackson Downie, M; Colin Earle, F; Nick Jacob, D; Hunter Johnson, D.

OUTLOOK: The Vikings return 10 starters from last year’s tournament team. Palazzi will organize and lead the defense. Perry finished with 11 goals as Smith Vocational finished second in its league. Doyle is a strong presence in goal.

South Hadley

COACH: Eric Castonguay, fifth year



LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 1-0 to Monument in WMass semifinal.

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Cris Casolari, D; Liam Joy, F; Clayton Koppi, G; Sophomores — Declan Joy, F; Max McCurdy, M; Grant Petrosky, D; Ashton Sanford, M.

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Alex Lerch, F; Michael Zhou, M; Juniors — Xavier Butzer, G; Marquise Fitzell, F; Gabe Kovacs, M; Victor Omojola, D; Sophomore — Austin Croteau, D.

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Bryan Wolf, D; Sophomores — Theo Abrams, F; Colin Foley, M; Corban Owen, D; Freshmen — Jonas Clarke, F; Tyler Evans, M; Liam Sibley-Welch, D.

OUTLOOK: They’re only getting older. The Tigers relied on a core of freshman last season that withstood the trials of varsity competition and nearly reached the postseason. Joy led South Hadley with 13 goals, and he’s one of three returning senior starters.

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