Sports

KIPP boys soccer team on the upswing

KIPP's Wellington Gonzalez has played well on both sides of the ball this season. (Item File Photo)

LYNN– The KIPP boys soccer team started the 2018 season off with a bang, going 5-0-1 and jumping out to first place in the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization (MCSAO) North Division standings. And despite a recent slide that has seen the Panthers lose three straight games, first-year KIPP head coach Jon Langlois is keeping things mostly positive.

“The season started out on a real high for us with lots of scoring,” said Langlois. “We also have a very strong defensive team, which allowed us to hold leads once we got them. But we’ve been struggling at the midfield at times throughout the season, and every team needs a strong midfield if it wants to be successful.”

One of the bright spots of that midfield, however, is Angel Hernandez. Leading the team with seven goals and 15 total points, Hernandez is the driving force behind KIPP’s offense.

“He has one of the best touches I’ve ever seen from a high school player,” Langlois said of Hernandez. “He has great vision, he’s a great dribbler and he has an absolute cannon of a shot. He’s a great offensive player for us.”

On the other side of the ball, Wellington Gonzalez holds things down defensively. After getting moved from midfield to defense this year due to a need at the defensive spot, Gonzalez is making an impact on both sides of the ball. He’s scored three of his four goals this season on free kicks, and his nine total points are good enough for second on the team behind Hernandez.

“Wellington has really stepped up for us this year,” Langlois said. “He’s been a rock for us on the back end and his offensive contributions have been great as well. To have him perform like this in a new position this year is great to see.”

Marco Escobar (nine total points), Aubrey Connors (six total points), Drannel Sawak (four total points) and Anderson Rodriguez (four total points) have also played well for KIPP this season.

Despite the strong play of Hernandez and Gonzalez, the Panthers (5-3-1) currently find themselves on a three-game losing streak. With two losses to a still-unbeaten Salem Academy team sandwiched between a loss to Excel Academy, KIPP has dropped from first place in the MCSAO North down to third place with just two games to go.

“Honestly, this has been kind of good for us,” Langlois said. “It showed us that we’re not invincible. It was an eye opener for us, and now it’s time to adjust.”

Both of the Panthers’ remaining games are against Pioneer Charter I, the team that stands ahead of them in the North standings. If KIPP can win both, the Panthers would pass Pioneer Charter I in the MCSAO North for second place.

“It’s time to show what we’re made of,” said Langlois. “The guys have worked hard this year and want to be rewarded for that work, so we want to end the regular season with some momentum and then hopefully take that right into the tournament.”

KIPP and Pioneer Charter I play Thursday at Madeleine English School in Everett (3).

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