Kevin Aroke is one of the returners for the Peabody boys soccer team. (Item file photo)

Peabody boys face challenging schedule

The Peabody boys soccer team will have its work cut out for it heading into the 2017 season, but with a strong group of returning seniors and a deep roster full of upperclassmen, the Tanners could make some noise in a talent-packed Northeastern Conference.

The Tanners had a successful season in 2016, going 9-6-1 and making the Division 1 North tournament before falling to Lowell, 1-0, in the first round.

“We played phenomenal in that game,” coach Stan McKeen said.

Peabody will have some holes to fill this season after graduating 11 seniors. But yet again, it has a large senior class with 16 players entering their final season at Peabody.

Headlining that group are captains Chris Belliveau, Jacob Casallas and Michael Panzini.

“They’ve done an excellent job over the summer and with captains practices,” McKeen said of his captains. “The team respects them, and they’re leaders on and off the field. Having all of these seniors is tough, because they’re their peers. They have to gain their respect. It’s not always easy to tell your classmates if they’re doing something wrong. But so far, so good.”

Also returning are Kevin Aroke, Johnny Alves, Troy Cappos, Ryan D’Alleva and Lucas Pimenta, who missed last season. McKeen estimated that between 65 and 70 kids came out for tryouts for the three teams (varsity, JV and freshmen).

The Tanners are loaded with midfielders, and McKeen plans to go with a 4-5-1 formation to play to the team’s strengths.

“Hopefully we can control the ball,” McKeen said. “We have a lot of skilled players.”

Offensively, junior Alves will lead the way after finishing last season as Peabody’s leading scorer as only a sophomore. Austin Silva and Pimenta are two other threats McKeen thinks will find the back of the net.

Defensively, McKeen feels confident in what he has, despite losing goalie Jake Zeuli to graduation. But Cappos has stepped up and has done a good job filling the void during the preseason.

The Tanners have had the chance to see what they can do on the field during the preseason, scrimmaging Fenwick last week and Triton on Saturday. But Peabody has some time before its first game, which is September 11 against Medford. McKeen is happy to have all of the time he can get so his banged-up squad can get healthy for the start of the season.

“We were down to two subs at one point (Saturday),” McKeen said. “We’ve been dealing with an injury bug, we’ve had plenty of injuries after the scrimmages.”

Once the schedule begins, there won’t be many days off for Peabody. The Tanners’ schedule is as tough as ever, with Medford and Somerville joining the Northeastern Conference. Peabody will have to play perennial tournament teams like Marblehead, Somerville, Swampscott, Beverly and Danvers twice this season.

“It’s good, because in a way, you want a tough schedule,” McKeen said, since it helps the team become prepared for the tournament.

First, however, the Tanners will need to focus on securing that tournament berth.

“That’s our first goal,” McKeen said, “and we’re going to have to work hard.”

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