There are high bars, and then there are the expectations set by the current seniors on the Nauset Regional boys’ soccer team. The current senior class has compiled a combined 64-2-1 record including tournament play, yielding two Division 2 state championships since 2016. In ‘16 and ‘18, Nauset was a perfect 23-0.
“We have a pretty good blueprint of what to strive for, because it’s been done so many times,” said senior midfielder Sebastian Headrick. “Everyone knows what they have to do to get where they want to be.”
In 2019, the Warriors aim to complete a dazzling four-year run with four players who were all-league selections last fall: joining Headrick as captains are fellow midfielder Spencer Rushnak and keeper Jack Avellar.
What’s their secret? They play soccer nonstop, no matter what the calendar says: indoors in the winter, club in the spring and men’s leagues in the summer.
But players filling their days with soccer year-round is nothing unique to Nauset — in fact, it’s more common than ever across the sport and coaches say it’s contributing to a noticeable rise in the level of play.
“The teams today are better,” said Ray Pavlik, entering his 18th season as head coach at Concord-Carlisle. “If I were to look at the average technique of somebody who plays right back for me right now, vs. 20 years ago, it’s night and day.”
North Andover coach Kyle Wood said raw athleticism in the absence of technical skill doesn’t go as far as it did in the past.
“You used to be able to get away with having three or four solid skilled soccer players along with some really good athletes, and you would have a really good season,” Wood said. “That’s not the case anymore.”
An issue facing coaches today, though, is that players aren’t building chemistry by playing with the same group consistently. Pavlik said it’s rare for more than a few of his players to be club teammates.
Pavlik also said today’s young players have more access to soccer knowledge than ever before.
“You turn on the TV on a Saturday morning, we were watching cartoons. Now they’re watching [English Premier League],” Pavlik said. “The MLS is on. It’s just around them. We would watch — maybe you’d get a World Cup game.
“There’s just a lot more opportunity for kids to be trained correctly.”
While many coaches receive a roster of players who haven’t played together each August, the Warriors have been playing as a team all summer.
The team attended a pair of four-day college camps over the summer — at Roger Williams and Keene State — and played in a weekly summer league as a team organized by the captains.
“Our team is really active in the offseason which I think helps a lot, especially the camps,” goalkeeper Avellar said. “I think Nauset has team chemistry that definitely separates us from other schools.”
Kyle Beaulieu-Jones has been taking his Brookline team to the annual preseason tourney at Nauset since he was hired as head coach five years ago. That included the 2019 edition on Saturday.
“[Nauset coach John McCully] is careful in the teams that he brings down in making sure everyone is going to have a productive weekend,” Beaulieu-Jones said. “It sets himself up for a good season because he gets good preseason games in.”
Beaulieu-Jones’ observations from the preseason event indicate that the Warriors’ meticulous training and chemistry is vital to their success.
“They are very organized and they do things in a unique way that makes it very difficult for you to break them down,” he said. “They play in a bit of a unique formation and they know their roles. It’s obvious they train it well.”
Chemistry may give Nauset a leg up, but the Warriors also have had undeniably talented players come through North Eastham. And after all the recent winning, there’s no visible complacency.
“I think after we win a championship we’re actually tougher on the kids. We’re demanding more from them,” said McCully, in his 20th season coaching at his alma mater.
“They’re excited to defend what’s theirs.”
Rushnak, a midfielder and captain, said the team sees a new frontier in going back-to-back this November, after they failed to do so in 2017. “We don’t want to let that happen again,” he said.
“It’s definitely something that’s humbling, coming into every new season, looking back and taking it all in,” said Avellar, the 2019 team’s only four-year varsity player.
“Every new season sets its own bar, though.”
Games to watch
Tuesday, Masconomet at St. John’s Prep, 4 p.m. — A pair of North Shore powers square off in the season opener in Danvers. Both teams reached a sectional final last fall.
Wednesday, Wayland at Lincoln-Sudbury, 4 p.m. — The reigning Division 3 state champions face a tough test to start the season with a Dual County League showdown against fourth-ranked L-S.
Friday, Franklin at Milford, 3:45 p.m. — In a Hockomock League match between two of the favorites in the league, dynamic Milford striker Walisson de Oliveira will look to break the program record for career points (47).
Friday, New Bedford at Nauset, 4 p.m. - The top-ranked Warriors welcome a dangerous New Bedford squad in a nonleague matchup in Eastham.
Monday, Medford at Xaverian, 6 p.m. - The 14th-ranked Mustangs enter the fall with high expectations and this showdown in Westwood against a Catholic Conference opponent will serve as an early-season barometer.
Charlie Wolfson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.