SAUGUS — After qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in 20 years last season, the Saugus boys soccer team will look to carry over the success it built into 2018.
“We worked out a lot of kinks but overall we have had a phenomenal effort this offseason,” Sachems head coach Larry Bolduc, entering his third season, said. “We want to focus on moving forward with the ball and finishing our shots and taking advantage of all our chances.
“I’d like for us to put the pressure off our defense and instead attack other teams and put the pressure on them,” Bolduc added.
Last year Saugus finished the regular season at 9-5-2 before falling in double overtime 2-1 against Dracut in the first round of the state tournament.
This season the Sachems look to improve on the success of last year with a solid group of returning players, including senior captain and striker Jonathan Rodrigues.
“Jonathan was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic and an Eastern Massachusetts All-Star last season,” Bolduc said. “We’re looking real well and he’s a huge part of that. He’s a prolific scorer in the box (and) he’s a great playmaker and leader of our offense.”
Another key performer on the field is midfielder Ryan Pugh, who scored 10 goals for the Sachems last season and has been named a captain in his senior season.
Saugus will also be returning senior goalie Juan Lopez who will also be taking on a leadership role as the team’s third captain.
“He’s a phenomenal talent in goal,” Bolduc said of Lopez. “He’s very tenacious in goal, diving for saves. Juan is always making great decisions for us.”
As all three captains adjust to their leadership roles, Bolduc is happy to have a leader at each end of the field.
“The three of them are doing phenomenal jobs so far,” Bolduc said. “It’s nice to have them in leadership roles. Juan is our defensive leader, Pugh at midfield and Rodrigues at striker one for each part of the field. I can try to put us in the best position but it’s up to these guys to motivate our team on the field.”
Bolduc has seen his team perform well in the preseason thus far. Saugus recently went 2-1 in a jamboree at Medford High School and showed some great competitive play, Bolduc said.
“We were fantastic, 2-1 in three games, it’s a real promising sign,” Bolduc said. “These are teams that when I got here (in 2016) were beating us 9-0 and now we are competitive. It’s great to compete with some of these teams that we could see in the playoffs.”
Saugus is opening its 2018 season with at Swampscott High School. The Big Blue defeated Saugus last year and Bolduc is looking forward to seeing how his team can match up with them this year.
“I think that we are definitely a more effective team this year,” Bolduc said. “Last time they got the better of us. They are a very quick team but we have actually been setting up and working on our speed and defending that type of offense. It’s going to be a great matchup for us.”