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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
A 7-6-4 regular season earned Walpole High boys soccer the No. 11 seed in Division II South last season. The Rebels upset No. 6 Oliver Ames (2-1) in the opening round, the same team that ended their playoff run in 2017. Walpole followed it up with another upset road win (1-0) over No. 3 Milford, before taking down non-league rival and No. 10 Westwood (3-1) in the sectional semifinals.
In the sectional final against eventual unblemished Division II state champ and No. 1 Nauset, Walpole’s Cinderella run came to a tough end with a 2-1 defeat; the Rebs came up just short of the sectional crown.
In 2019, Walpole will look to work some more magic and make another nice, long state tournament run. Head coach Lee Delaney and his staff will need to fill the voids of 14 graduated seniors, including the team’s top scorer, Aidan Murray, and goalkeeper Denis Crowley. Nevertheless, Walpole returns four starters, including three senior captains in center back Jack Magane, defensive midfielder Conor Brady and attacking midfielder Danny Colbert. Senior forward John Brady rounds out Walpole’s core of returning starters.
“We had a good run last year,” said Delaney. “Every year, there’s a bit of a rebuild when it comes to personnel. When you graduate 14 seniors like we did this last spring, there’s obviously going to be a big transition. It’s been a real competitive first few days of camp. We’ve got probably about 25-30 guys fighting for 20 spots, and it’s going to be tough to decide which young guys to put on varsity and JV - a lot of good competition at all positions.”
Finding ways to replace the lost production of Murray on offense and Crowley in net will not be easy, but Delaney is confident in his group of seniors and returning starters to find a way on offense, all while a battle between a pair of seniors, Ryan Thomsen and Sebastian Pignone, figures itself out for the starting goalkeeper spot.
“Aidan [Murray] and Denis [Crowley] graduating are definitely big losses,” said Delaney. “Aidan scoring all the goals like he did and Denis being the difference maker that he was, both in the goal and taking a lot of the free kicks at the midfield, serving up some dangerous balls and giving us an extra guy forward. Aidan scored 10-11 goals in the regular season and then scored in every tournament game. He’ll be hard to replace, so we’re hoping to get his production out of a number of different people. Hopefully we can work a little more magic and make another run. Should definitely be a fun season.”