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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
By Needham’s lofty standards, the 2018 season concluded in about the toughest way imaginable: losing to arch rival Wellesley in penalty kicks on their home field in the South quarterfinals in the midst of a monsoon. In 2019, Needham will hope to rebound, and it starts at the top with senior captain and attacking center midfielder Steven Donovan leading the charge.
“We have one captain to start the year - we’ll elect the others later this week - Steven Donovan, who was also one of the captains last year,” said head coach Jim Odierna.
Needham did lose a significant core of its starters from last season, including keeper Will Popper, who now plays at Union, as well as one of their top scorers in Sam Keenan. The Rockets will need its underclass to step up and fill some major voids, such as the starting goalkeeper position, amongst others, according to Odierna.
“We lost a lot of starters and depth with last year’s graduating class,” said Odierna. “So there’s opportunities for a lot of new guys to make a mark at the varsity level. We’re focusing on building a strong, cohesive team atmosphere and focus on improving over the course of the season so that we can be playing our best soccer as we approach the tournament. There will be some growing pains for some of the young guys we’ll have, but again, the goal is to learn and improve, striving for greatness in the end. More soccer specific, we are looking to improve our offensive attack and score more goals this year as the core of our returners are our offensive players.”
One of the returning starters Odierna is referring to on offense is midfielder Gerard Costa, who broke out last season as a sophomore and again will be a key name to watch out for again in 2019.