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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 2, 2010

Blackbirds ready to defend Class CC title

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Defending champions have nowhere to go but up, especially when the same players show up for another try at it.

The Blackbirds’ soccer team is hoping to defend its Class CC title in 2010 and most of the signs are pointing in a favorable direction. Voorheesville has 19 returning players –– 11 are seniors –– and nine recurring starters.

“We do feel some pressure to perform, but we’re glad to have it,” said senior Chris Dimmitt at Tuesday’s practice.

“I think this group has the same chances,” Head Coach Willie Sanchez said. “They’re very good players and they have added experience.”

“We expect to go further, but it all depends on how we handle the situation,” said senior Joe Cillis.

Seniors Joe Keenan, the goalkeeper, Dimmitt, and Cillis; junior David Suozzo; sophomore Blake Fenner; and seniors Pat Brousseau, Zach Jones, Hayden Wood, and Andrew Cole come back to the starting roster. Voorheesville has plenty of depth to fill the remaining two positions.

“We have a lot of different players that can each contribute something,” said Sanchez, who referred to playmaking, speed, athleticism, and natural skill. “Now, we have to figure out everyone’s role and find a successful make-up.”

Plenty remains the same in Blackbirds’ camp, but the team will have to face two new opponents this season, Fonda-Fultonville and Ichabod Crane, which were added to the Colonial Council during the off-season.

The Colonial Council is now broken into two divisions; Voorheesville is in the first division with Fonda, Cobleskill, Albany Academy, and Schalmont. Sanchez doesn’t know much, if anything, about the two new opponents, but suspects a challenge from both.

“We want good games during the regular season,” said Sanchez, giving credit to the other Colonial Council teams. “Nothing is a given and that’s not a bad thing because it gets you ready for sectionals down the road.”

The Blackbirds hope to be peaking by the time sectionals roll around, just like it did a year ago. “The season is a whole grinding process,” Sanchez said. “You keep building it up.”

Skill set

Keenan, who made big saves in 2009, and even better saves during the shootout against Schoharie in the Class CC final, will be a superior player for Voorheesville. On Tuesday, Keenan was diving and rolling all over the goalmouth, making saves.

Several times during a crossing drill, Keenan jumped high to grab the ball, killing any potential scoring opportunities. “He definitely has more reach now,” said Wood.

“He’s a tremendous athlete that can make plays naturally,” Sanchez said of Keenan. “Goalies should be able to win games for their team and we’ve seen that from him. We’re very comfortable with him in goal.”

The defensive backfield and the midfield have taken a minor hit with the graduation of Eric Meyer and Zack Keller, but the presence of Cole, Brousseau, and newcomer Luis Weist should be enough for recovery.

“We need a new leader in back,” said Sanchez.

As far as scoring goes, Sanchez said, “It’s the hardest part of the entire game.” Wood, Cillis, Dimmitt, Suozzo, Jones, freshman Kevin Clark, Fenner, and junior J.D. Springer can all hit the net.

“As long as we score more than the other team,” Sanchez said.

Cillis mentioned that Voorheesville’s positioning on the field did get tweaked a little. The team will now go with two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder.

“We all know what to play and where to go,” Wood said.

The Blackbirds have a non-league home game against Hudson at 4 p.m. on Friday at the Satellite fields and then travel to Maple Hill on Saturday for scrimmages against Maple Hill, Schoharie, and Waterford. Voorheesville battled all three of those teams last year during sectionals, eventually losing to Waterford.

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“It’ll be nice to see them again,” Sanchez said with a grin.