SHREWSBURY – After going 15-3-3 and winning league and district titles for the first time in program history, the Shrewsbury boys varsity soccer team has high expectations for the upcoming season.
“I think we always try to set really high standards and expectations regardless of if we fall short the year before or accomplish our goals,” head coach Matthew Wheeler told the Community Advocate. “I’m sure being defending league champs and CMASS champs there’s probably a target on our back a little. We have high expectations for our group.”
However, the Shrewsbury team will look noticeably different than last year’s bunch. The program graduated 12 seniors last year, including four Telegram & Gazette Super Team selections. The team’s three new captains – Kamden Carll, Alan Grebelsky and Connor Padula – will lead the group this year.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to replace certain kids, especially some of those more talented kids… but I think the kids that we have coming back and the new additions, some of them were major contributors toward our success last year. It’s just a matter of setting the tone, setting the expectations,” Wheeler said. “We try to compete day in and day out at practice and challenge each other. We try to step on the field and get better every day.”
The team has impact players – but it’s also deep. Wheeler said the team has two freshmen and four sophomores who will “log minutes” for the program. Shrewsbury also just established a middle-school soccer team, giving younger athletes another opportunity to improve their skills before high school, ultimately making the varsity team stronger down the line.
Although the team has changed considerably since the championship, Wheeler noted you’ll see similar strategy and style of play from the Shrewsbury team.
“Every year we try to look at our personnel, and we try to figure out who our impact players are going to be… and how we can highlight them consistently throughout all the games we play. I think we have a certain style – both in possession and out of possession – but each year depending on who we have for personnel we adjust… [But] the team will see some of the same stuff we like to do – definitely,” he said.
Another thing that won’t be changing: the coaching. Shrewsbury has the benefit of an award-winning and dedicated head coach. Last year Wheeler was voted the Large School Central Massachusetts Coach of the Year by the Central Massachusetts Soccer Coaches Association.
Although Wheeler is clearly central to the program, when asked how he manages and coaches the team to such success, Wheeler credited everyone but himself, mentioning his assistant coaches, Athletic Director Jay Costa, the Shrewsbury High School community and – most importantly – the players.
“I’d have to start with the players. It all starts with the players. They meet any challenge we put out there. They compete. They are coachable. I think that’s where the credit starts,” he said.
The team started this year 1-2, and hope to improve to 2-2 against Algonquin on Tuesday night.