WESTON — There wasn’t one game in particular last year that made the boys’ soccer players at Weston High want to give up, crawl into a hole, and throw away their cleats.
It was the consistent losing, two or three times every week. It was each of the 14 times during a stretch of six days that goalie Mark Fishman had to dig the ball out of the back of the net and punt it over the hanging heads of his defenders.
Chason Timko talked with disgust while discussing last fall. Asked what it felt like to be watching the once-mighty Wildcats — who won their division’s state title in 2009, and reached the Division 3 North semifinals in 2010 — suddenly become the laughingstock of the Dual County League’s Small Division, Timko looked straight at the ground.
“It was pretty awful,” he said. “I felt bad for our coach.”
When a team is as bad as Weston was last year, getting shut out in 12 of 17 games, and scoring just a few goals all season before finishing 3-14-1, there’s bound to be frustration and anger.
The anger turned to disappointment. Then it began to fade. It wasn’t worth the pain. And eventually, the players just didn’t care.
“That was the worst part,” Fishman said. “We became numb to it. We expected to lose every game.”
Thomas McEnrey had to watch it all.
In his first year at the helm of a program that experienced so much success under Renato Capobianco , McEnrey, who had just recently moved to the United States from Ireland, figured there would be a learning curve, especially with just four seniors in the starting unit.
What he got was an accelerated straight line.
But as fed up with losing as the Wildcats were last season, when they admittedly turned practices into countless wasted hours of messing around, their coach never seemed fazed.
“It was a case of taking the positives,” McEnrey said through a scruffy beard and thick Irish accent. “The boys had to get used to my style. Trying to get that philosophy across takes time.”
Instead of discussing soccer topics that made Fishman, Timko, and classmate Andrew Bromfield uncomfortable or dispirited, McEnrey tried instead to find the silver lining.
Forget about the bad, focus on the good. The coach has spent more time trying to teach his players that than he has spent on curving kicks or tricky dribbling moves.
And he’s almost there.
Through its first four games this fall, Weston matched its win total from a year ago. The Wildcats outscored opponents 8-3 in going 3-0-1, including a come-from-behind win over last season’s Dual County League champs, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High.
Some coaches don’t believe in momentum — either the skill is there or it isn’t.
But McEnrey is a believer. If he wants to push his team to overachieve, to win another state title — which the players believe is possible — he has to believe.
“When we get momentum, we’re unstoppable,” said Timko, a senior this year. “It doesn’t even feel taxing on your body. When you’re winning, you don’t want to come out. It’s that type of thing.”
In their fifth game, a league match against Acton-Boxborough Regional on Wednesday, the Wildcats felt it for moments. They took a 1-0 lead when Bromfield outhustled a Colonials defender on the right flank and steamrolled the ball past goalie Jake Siegel .
But once the Colonials scored their first goal, the 11 players on the Weston side began hanging heads like a rehearsed moment of silence. Acton-Boxborough then scored five unanswered goals, including four off breakaways.
The Wildcats weren’t just caught napping. They were comatose.
“We got down on ourselves,” McEnrey said, “and then we’re chasing the game. And against a team like A-B — such a big school with a big variety of players to choose from — they can change the game to be played their way. What you’d like to see is our guys bouncing back on their feet.”
Timko gave the Wildcats hope with four minutes left, striking the ball from about 40 yards out for a goal he can only hope someone caught on video. Suddenly, Weston looked like a new team.
“Those were the first goals we’ve conceded this season,” said Acton-Boxborough coach David Baumritter . Athletically, he said, the Weston players “are pretty similar as they were last year. But I saw more fight today. I think they have more spirit.”
Walking off the field after Wednesday’s loss, Timko, sensing a moment of despair not too different than what he felt all of last year, barked out a demand to the team: “I don’t want to hear a single negative comment.”
Less than 20 minutes later the Wildcats were joking around and eating pizza.
That’s the short memory McEnrey is looking for.
Whatever helps keep that momentum.
Colonials gain edge
With Lincoln-Sudbury off to a 1-2 start, the Dual County Large’s League Division could be Acton-Boxborough’s to win.
With a sturdy defense behind him, dynamic senior midfielder Ryan Rose can push up on offense and turn the Colonials (3-0 through Wednesday) into a more explosive team.
“Last year we were very reactionary,” Baumritter said. “We were just a team that could absorb pressure and needed to play on the counterattack. But now we’ve added another dimension.”
Fauchet on goal run
Gregoire Fauchet has been carving through defenders with his fancy footwork and smooth passing for three years at Concord-Carlisle, and he is off to a scorching start this fall.
The senior midfielder drained a 20-yard free kick to help the Patriots beat Lincoln-Sudbury, 1-0, and tallied a hat trick in a 9-0 thumping of Newton South.
And coach Ray Pavlik thinks there is even more to his game.
“We’re trying to get him to focus on being that complete player,” Pavlik said. “He’s obviously an outstanding scorer, but also taking pride in defense . . . then he can become an impact player.”