Cougars Looking for Another Memorable Run in 2021
Senior captain Ben Williams will be leading the H-K boys’ soccer team this year after garnering All-Shoreline Conference Second Team accolades as a junior captain last fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Sophomore Cole Merriam is back on the field with the H-K boys’ soccer squad on the heels of a freshman season that saw him score a team-leading seven goals for the Cougars. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Isaac Barrera enters his senior season as a key midfielder for the defending Shoreline Conference championship H-K boys’ soccer team. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Mike Mead couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin his coaching career with the Haddam-Killingworth boys’ soccer program last year. As he begins his second season with the Cougars, Mead feels confident about the squad that will be hitting the pitch in 2021.
H-K finished with an overall record of 8-3-2 and won the Shoreline Conference title while competing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 fall season. With his team returning several key players from that championship run, Coach Mead is looking forward to another fun year with the Cougars, who open their campaign with a road game versus Portland at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9.
“I just want everyone to compete every day and grow as a group,” said Mead. “We made changes all the way up until our last regular-season game before we found what worked best for us last season. It takes time. We created a mentality that we can and will compete with anyone we play, and we plan to stick by that this season.”
Although H-K is bringing back plenty of talented athletes, the team will have to deal with the loss of several solid players who have graduated from last year’s team. This includes Colby Whitehead, a defender/midfielder who served as a senior captain last season. Coach Mead plans on interchanging players through the rotation to see who fits best in certain schemes, while running similar formations as he did last fall.
“This season will provide a lot of change for us. New players, new positions, and we hope to be able to mix things up as games progress, but we are looking at very similar play styles as last year—5-3-2 and 3-5-2 sets,” Mead said. “We believe in our guys up top, and our goal will be to limit shots on goal and get our wing backs forward.”
Senior Ben Williams will lead H-K as a captain after serving in that role as a junior. Williams, who earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors last year, is transitioning from the midfield to defense for the 2021 season. Fellow seniors Isaac Barrera and Ryan Mucciaccaro, who are both midfielders; and Jayden Zaitoun, an outside back; are also returning veterans and will all be pivotal players for the Cougars.
“Ben will look to switch to center back for us this year. I believe his move to defense this year will help solidify our formation,” Coach Mead said. “Isaac can play any position for us, and him being able to play both sides of the ball will be huge for us through the midfield. Jayden will stick to his natural position at outside, back and we hope to allow him to push up the field more and support our attack. Ryan he is a workhorse pairing up with Isaac and [freshman James Marchetti] in the midfield.”
Another notable player who’s coming back for H-K is sophomore striker Cole Merriam. Last year, Merriam had an excellent freshman season that saw him score a team-leading seven goals, including the lone score of the Cougars’ 1-0 win over East Hampton in the Shoreline Conference final. Coach Mead also expects Marchetti and fellow sophomore Ryan Lasusa to make impact for H-K throughout the season.
“Cole is our returning goal-scorer form last season. He plays a strong, physical game, and he’s relentless with the ball,” said Mead. “James is our IQ guy looking to create through the midfield and feed our forwards. Ryan will be a great piece for us with his speed up top as we look to create for him. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on Cole, so that should open up more opportunities for [Lasusa].”
Juniors Tyler Perry, Jack Straka, Sam Carter, and Calvin Napoletano are also slated to play key roles for H-K this year. Additionally, Coach Mead expects sophomores Ben Werner and Andres Montes to make an impact off the bench.
“We don’t really have a set roster yet, but these are all guys that will be big role players for us. I see all of them rotating in heavily,” Mead said. “From a coach’s perspective, I’m excited to watch our sophomore class. It’s a big transition year for a strong, young group as we bring a handful on varsity.”
After no state tournaments were held last fall, Coach Mead is excited about having a full season that is scheduled to include both Shorelines and states this year. However, Mead remains mindful of all the challenges that come with playing through the pandemic.
“It should always be on our mind,” said Mead. “But I think everyone in charge of making the decisions toward COVID and our season have done an excellent job and have us ready for a safe and successful full season of high school soccer.”
2021 Haddam-Killingworth Boys’ Soccer Schedule
Home games at H-K High School
Thursday, Sept. 9: at Portland at 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 11: at Manchester at 10 a.m.
Monday, Sept. 13: at vs. Old Saybrook at 3:45 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 18: at St. Paul at 1 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 20: at North Branford at 3:45 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 23: vs. Coginchaug at 3:45 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25: at Valley Regional at 11 a.m.
Monday, Sept. 27: at Cromwell at 3:45 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 30: vs. East Hampton at 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 5: vs. Westbrook at 3:45 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 7: at Old Lyme at 3:45 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 11: vs. Bacon Academy at 11 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 12: at Hale-Ray at 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15: vs. Valley Regional at 3:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 19: at Morgan at 6:30 p.m.