Thomas Dale Working Out The Kinks
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Mar 14, 2014, 13:36
Blake Belden/Hopewell News/ News Patriot
As spring peeks over the horizon joined by the upcoming high school soccer season, the Thomas Dale boys varsity Knights are stepping into the ring as a young squadron, returning only a handful of starters, full of heart and determination with an enthusiastic appetite for victory.
Following their second scrimmage, a tie at home against Deep Run, on Thursday night, head coach Mark Fowler admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done in light of the team's high level of energy.
"We're...not as organized and as tight as I'd like us to be. We give away too many silly things, a little bit too sloppy...," Fowler said.
Despite certain imperfections regarding technique and overall game play, the enthusiasm was definitely present on the field. Thomas Dale battled frigidly during Thursday's scrimmage, a matchup that began in Deep Run's favor until the Knights dominated the possession of the ball in the second half eventually scoring off of a centerfield header to send the match into overtime.
After several nail-biting goal attempts were swatted down by diving goalies from each team in overtime, the game concluded as a stalemate, a tie characterized by speed, grit and scrambling tenacity.
As the season continues and grows, Fowler hopes the winning behavior of his players becomes synonymous with a winning season.
"They're a great bunch of lads and they've got a great attitude and a good work rate, a good work ethic and we could do OK," Fowler said.
The team will look to returning players like Austin Correia, Matt Peloquin, Aaron Clark and Matt Mangano for guidance and leadership as the season unfolds, Fowler said.
"They played last year. They have that experience. I think they're the only starters from last year. So there's a lot of pressure, a lot of importance placed on them," Fowler said.
Fowler said that they lost a lot of seniors from last year's team, but embraced an optimistic view that holes created by players who left create opportunities for someone else to step up and fill them.
Blake Belden/The Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Thomas Dale played effectively last season, making a run in the playoffs until they were defeated by Cosby, who ended up competing for the state title.
With almost two decades of coaching experience at the school, Fowler knows that success can be achieved through a team stigma and mentality despite which players have come and gone from the roster.
"It's a culture we've picked up over the years now of having a little bit of pride in the shirt, and...we play with a very organized, structured system which will hopefully carry us through and then we can punch above our weight a little bit," Fowler said.
Fowler, who has been leading the Knights for 17 years, said that it is still very early in the season, with snowy weather eliminating all but a few opportunities for a sufficient practice so far and players are just beginning to gel and find themselves as a functioning unit.
The Knights have more than two weeks to continue preparing for the season, which begins with a home opener against Matoaca on April 1.