Ben Brown initially impressed Concord-Carlisle boys’ soccer coach Ray Pavlik in the first grade.
Brown, playing on a team Pavlik was coaching, pretended he didn’t notice the goalkeeper with the ball. Once the keeper made an outlet pass, Brown sprung into action, jumping the route to intercept the ball and score.
“For a first-grader, to have that awareness on the field, not just the physical talent but the IQ to figure out that he’s going to trick the goalie and that it will work, you knew the kid was going to be special,” said Pavlik at the outset of his 21st season as the coach at C-C.
In Tuesday’s second day of preseason tryouts at Doug White Field, Brown took a leading role. The senior captain set the tone with his intensity in drills and signaled when to change from one-on-one battles to two-on-twos, with Pavlik giving him a thumbs-up at the suggestion.
Brown, a senior captain who is committed to Tufts, served as a catalyst for the Patriots’ run to the Division 1 state semifinals last season, scoring three of his seven goals in the playoffs as a defensive midfielder.
The Patriots haven’t had a losing season since 1984, capturing five state championships since 2006, with the latest one coming in 2017. That consistency and standard of excellence can be credited to lasting bonds with Pavlik.
“You’re playing for a coach that you know cares about you and knows the best for what you want to do,” Brown said. “He’s grown up watching us play, he knows what we can do.”
Brown, an imposing 6-foot-5-inch presence in the middle of the pitch, excels at marking defensively, utilizing his frame and quick feet to win battles. He is skillful with the ball at his feet. Paired with fellow senior captains Deco Siefer in the midfield and center back Des Simon, the team’s leadership is ready to carry on the Patriots’ tradition of winning.
“Knowing (Pavlik) for so many years, I know what he’s thinking without talking to him,” said Simon. “I just know him so well. It really translates [to the field].”
Brown, a two-time Dual County League soccer All-Star, also serves as captain of the C-C basketball team and was coached by Pavlik on the baseball diamond up until high school. Brown and his senior class want to culminate their journey with a strong senior season.
“We’ve grown up with him, from travel soccer to basketball, he’s been there everywhere,” said Brown. “It’s all about trust.”
▪ Brookline, the defending Division 1 state champion, graduated 14 seniors, yet will return five starters. After capturing the first championship in program history, the Warriors understand what it takes to win, especially in the ultra-competitive Bay State Conference.
“They see how tight the margins are,” said eighth-year coach Kyle Beaulieu-Jones. “They realize how everything matters — the small details, the fitness. They realize that this is a new season and they need to compete.”
Senior captain Oscar Kulkarni, who played opposite All-State selection Isaac Heffess, will return to pace the attack. Fellow senior captains and starters Julian Gravereaux and Max Luby anchor the defense, which served as the team’s stalwart.
“We have confidence that our back line will be strong again with Julian and Max,” said Beaulieu-Jones. “We have a core with playoff experience, which will set us up well for this season.
▪ Joao Faria amassed 29 goals last season as an attacking threat for Rockland, who parlayed the striker’s success into a 18-2-1 record.
With plenty of interest from clubs across the area, Faria decided to continue playing for the Bulldogs.
“Here’s a kid who could play for academies and he’s gonna stay and play for his hometown,” said Rockland coach Dan Kimball. “It gave me goosebumps.”
The 6-2 Faria uses his long legs to generate power with his left foot. He incorporates elite quickness and strong footwork to break away from defenders and create scoring opportunities. Kimball’s brother, Joe, set the school single scoring record in 2016, scoring 30 goals — a record that Faria will look to break this season.
“He’s one of the premier strikers in the area,” said Kimball. “The sky’s the limit for him.”
Teams to watch
Brockton — Senior standout defender Isaldir Fernandes anchors the backline for the Boxers, who posted a 13-1-1 record last season.
Brookline — The defending Division 1 state champion sets its sights on repeating, relying on Gravereaux and Luby to pace a stingy defensive unit.
Nauset — Senior forward Nate Watring returns after leading the Warriors (17-2-2) in scoring last season, including notching five goals and two assists in the postseason.
Needham — The Rockets, who navigated an ultra-challenging Bay State Conference to finish the regular season undefeated, return league MVP Noah Goldstein.
Norwell — New coach Michael O’Dea takes over for Jack Browne, who guided the Clippers to four consecutive undefeated regular seasons and the program’s first state title last season.
Players to watch
Noah Goldstein, Needham — A senior midfielder, Goldstein is the reigning Bay State Conference MVP and an All-New England selection who paced Rockets to a 15-1-4 record.
Marco Perugini, Medway — The rising senior scored 24 goals last season for the Mustangs, earning Tri-Valley League MVP and All-State honors.
Ethan Sullivan, Pembroke — The rising senior earned Patriot League MVP and All-State accolades, pacing the Titans to a Patriot League Fisher Division title last season with 15 goals and 14 assists.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.