Coach Stock, Lewis Mills girls soccer aiming even higher in year two
BURLINGTON - The Lewis Mills girl’s soccer team has accomplished a lot over the past few seasons but there is one goal that remains elusive and Coach Jason Stock think he has a team that could change that.
Looking to repeat as Berkshire League champions, the Spartans open the 2013 season Tuesday when they host Shepaug. Not only will Mills start its quest for a second straight BL title this week but it will also start working toward something that the program has never done, win a state championship.
The Spartans have lost their title game appearances in 1998 and 2010, both to Suffield and both by one goal. They have advanced to the state quarter finals in 2011 and coach Stock's first season ended with a trip to the Class M semifinals and a loss to eventual state champion Northwest Catholic.
The Spartans return eight starters from last season's club and four other payers that contributed regularly on the varsity level.
Lesleigh Carter and Anna Marinelli are the Spartans captains this season and fellow seniors Emily Nepomuceno and Bailey Pace are also key returners. The recent success and number of returners with experience has pushed expectations pretty high for Stock and his team.
"I like to think we can win BL," Stock said. "That is definitely an achievable goal with all that we have back from the team last year and considering we did win it. Then I think we can make a good deep run again in the state tournament."
It's a long way off, but when the Spartans do start their quest for a Class M title they will have one less obstacle to overcome, namely the defending champion Indians. Northwest Catholic has won the last two Class M titles and have gone 38-0-2 in their last 40 games. The last team to beat the Indians was the Spartans, 1-0, in the 2010 Class M semifinals.
In 2013, the Indians have been moved up to Class LL, a credit to their power and a relief to those in L and M.
"We have talked about it and the door has opened a little bit with Northwest Catholic and some other teams being moved up," Stock said. "We have a lot of work to do but we'd like to go just that little bit further than we did last year."
To prepare for the upcoming season, Mills has been taking on some of the best teams in the state this preseason. The Spartans have scrimmaged Avon, Danbury, Farmington and Wilton and have not lost in any of those matches. Avon has won the last two Class L titles, Farmington played for the L title in 2011 and Wilton is historically one of the state's best programs.
"It's early in the season and there are still a lot of things to work on but there have been some good things to come out of it," Stock said. "It was something I wanted to do, to load us up early and see how we fare. It will help us get up to speed right away when the season starts."
When the season does start, the Spartans and Stock will be further along in year two than they were at this point last season. A year ago the Spartans were still getting used to life with a new coach and playing a different style. This time around everyone knows what to expect.
"People know what style I am coming in with and what the expectations are this season," Stock said. "We are picking up from last year instead of having to start fresh which is good. I know the girls and they know me and we can just jump right into it as opposed to last season we spent the first two, three weeks trying to get to know each other."
With the familiarity comes an early focus and with the experience of the squad comes high expectations. Work remains to be done if the Spartans are to make history this season but Stock feels his team is prepared to give it its best shot.
"Our goal is a state title and we are going to be working toward that," Stock said. “Coming close the last few years will be something that keeps them motivated, they want to make that last season a special one."