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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The boys soccer program has for long been a crown jewel of Needham High athletics. In 2016, the Rockets return a core group of seniors to their roster and once again will look to make some noise in the Bay State Conference.
Leading the charge for Needham this season will be their four senior captains: Michael Aksman, Michael McShane, Eric O’Brien, and Antonio Trabucco.
“All four of our captains have a good amount of varsity experience,” said Rockets head coach Jimmy Odierna. “We should have a strong center midfield and offense, and we already have good leadership present on our team with guys like Antonio, Eric, and the two Mikes doing their part. We have a lot to be excited about.”
Along with their senior captains, the Rockets will also be led by a group of backs in Michael Peress (senior), Jak Hallagan (senior), Andy Kaplan (senior), Jackson Segal (junior), Sam Keenan (sophomore) and Forrest Shimazu (sophomore).
Odierna also says that while the Rockets may be young in the back, they will be very strong at midfield in 2016, with players such as Dan Cohen (sophomore), Christian Rufo (Sophomore), George Gworek (junior), and Vali TenBrook (junior) doing their part.
“Barring injuries, we should have a strong and experienced center midfield and offense, as well as a very potent attack,” said Odierna. “We will be young and inexperienced in the back, but our guys have a lot of soccer knowledge and will show a quick learning curve.”
In order for any team to succeed, especially in a conference as highly competitive as the Bay State Conference, you need to have good goalkeeping. The last line of defense for the Rockets in 2016 will be the duo of senior Kyle Batra and junior Andrew McNally, both of whom will be getting their shot, according to Odierna.
“Kyle and Andrew have both performed very well throughout camp,” said Odierna. “Both guys have shown the ability to step up and make key saves for us this season, so we’re excited to see what each of them can bring to the table.”
Despite the youth that is present on this year’s varsity soccer team, Odierna has little doubt that his group of young men can be more than just highly competitive in 2016.
“It may take some time for us to smooth out the wrinkles and gain some experience, but our long-term outlook for this season is strong and I'm excited to see how we can come together and become a dangerous threat. We'll be looking for a significant number of underclassmen to step up this year to aid in our success.”