Pioneers are primed for a tournament run

Jonathan Luders (middle) returns for his senior season. (Item File Photo)

LYNNFIELD — There’s a distinct and undeniable level of excitement in the air when it comes to the 2018 Lynnfield High boys soccer team.

Last year Lynnfield finished the regular season 8-7-3 and earned the No. 7 seed in the Division 3 North state tournament.  The Pioneers drew a strong Melrose team in round one and were eliminated with a 4-1 loss.

Fast forward to this year and with the loss of only four seniors (only two of whom started) it would appear that all of the pieces are in place to make a deep run in the tournament and, perhaps, compete for a Cape Ann League Kinney Division title.

“The team’s looking great and we have lots of returning players with a lot of varsity experience,” said coach Brent Munroe. “The kids have worked really hard in the spring and summer off-season and things are looking really good for us.”

This year’s team will be led by five senior captains – returning captain and last year’s team Player of the Year honoree, CAL First team All-Star and Eastern Mass All-Star, Jonathan Luders, 2017 Most Improved Player Michael Gentile and twin brother and CAL Second Team All-Star David Gentile, returning captain Nathan Bass, a midfielder, and goaltender Jack Campbell.

Other seniors returning include forward Aidan Connelly, midfielder Max Sieger, midfielder Jackson Cleary and defender Joseph Connelly.

Lynnfield has a strong junior class with five returers, led by forward Thomas Buston and midfielder Tommy Hauser, who last year had breakout seasons.  Also returning are midfielder Alejandro Lynch, defender Matthew Juliano and froward Joseph Cibelli.

Munroe had a chance to see the team in live action last weekend at a 4-team round robin scrimmage.

“We looked really good and I felt really good about the fact that we only gave up a handful of shots in the St. John’s scrimmage,” Munroe said.  “It’s hard to really conclude anything as some teams played more of their whole teams, so it’s hard to judge, but we more than held our own and won two games and tied St. John’s, and we looked especially good against them, so I was very happy.”

While the roster has yet to be finalized, Munroe said freshmen Dominic Ferrante, a defender, and Ben Sykes, a midfielder, have looked impressive and may be in the mix for varsity minutes.

“They played really well in Saturday’s scrimmage, so they may be key players for us,” Munroe said.

The starting lineup is beginning to take shape.  Campbell will start in net with Gesamondo on the bench as a backup.

“Dante is on the shelf so to speak as he broke his leg last spring, so he won’t be ready for at least a couple of weeks,” Munroe said.  “Had he not had the injury, he would have been competing with Jack for the starter’s role, but he’s just not ready yet.”

Martinho and David Gentile will start at center back with Lynch and Juliano starting at outside back.

“Luke got a lot of varsity minutes last year when Tommy Hauser broke his wrist, so he brings a lot of experience,” said Munroe.  “Lynch was a part-time starter last year and Matt also had experience, so those kids along with David and Michael as the defensive center back, that gives us a very strong backfield, especially up the middle.”

Bass, Hauser, Cleary and Sieger are likely to start in the midfield depending on formation, while the Pioneers’ top two scorers, Luders and Buston, return as forwards.

“Max and Jack both are looking especially good,” said Munroe.  “They both played football and their first year of soccer was only last year, but they have really worked hard in the offseason, so it’s night and day compared to where they were last year.”

Munroe said he expects the Kinney Division will be strong this year.

“The Large has been really good the last few years and Masco obviously is going to be tough to beat, but Pentucket also looks to be strong as well as Newburyport, which returns almost its entire team, and North Reading is always good,” Munroe said.  “Manchester-Essex is probably the best team in the Small, so they will be tough, and we have two non-league games against Austin Prep team that is always a good tournament team, so the schedule is going to be tough again.”

Lynnfield opens the season Wednesday at North Reading.

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