With the new season comes a new beginning, some new players, new expectations, and — in the case of the Newtown High School boys’ soccer team — a new approach to the game.
“We have a new style of play this year that we’re hoping to integrate into our game play,” senior captain and center defender Logan Puleri said.
The change is what Coach Brian Neumeyer calls a more abstract style of offense in comparison to past tactics when his team has possession. He said a lack of shape or foundation to the offense he will have in place is a reflection of the abilities and playing styles of the players he has this fall.
“It’s a little bit different. It gives our players in the front a lot more freedom,” said Neumeyer, adding that the Nighthawks have the skill to turn a less structured offense into success.
The team lost 11 team members to graduation, six of whom were starters, from last year’s group that got to the semifinals of the South-West Conference Tournament and quarterfinals of the Class LL state tourney. Among the returnees who bring back varsity experience are captains Matt Mossbarger and Wesley Morlock, center midfielder and center defender, respectively.
Other Nighthawks expected by Neumeyer and company to play significant roles are stopper Brenton Scott, forward Nate Kalra, center midfielder Grant Ricketts, and goalkeeper Eli Klorczyk.
“I’m really pleased with the attitude of the group. That’s what’s going to take them through. I think that we’re a skillful group, a hardworking group, but I think their attitude is just absolutely phenomenal and we’ll see if we can rely on that to get us through this year,” Neumeyer said.
Despite the different makeup to this year’s team than that of past squads, the objectives remain the same.
“I think our goals are always the same — to really try to test and push ourselves to whatever limits they are. We don’t know what they are yet but I think this team will overachieve and surprise some people,” the coach said.
The players hope to surprise enough teams to win a title or two.
“I think we definitely have a shot at winning states and SWCs,” Mossbarger said.
The Nighthawks had an impressive preseason, shutting out a trio of teams in scrimmages, giving the players an added boost of confidence as they embark on the regular slate. “We want to keep up the intensity we had this preseason,” Morlock said.
Tough South-West Conference foes include Joel Barlow of Redding, Brookfield, Pomperaug of Southbury, and Masuk of Monroe.
Season-opening opponent and nonconference team Fairfield Prep defeated Newtown 1-0 in the season opener on September 10; Prep went on to a runner-up finish in Class LL last year.