Tigers Begin New Era with Familiar Results
Senior captain Jackson Malary and the Hand boys’ soccer squad are off to a stellar start in their first year with new Head Coach Neil Phillips. The Tigers were sporting a record of 5-0-1 following last week’s action. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Senior Aiden MacKay scored four goals for the Tigers when they blanked Career-Hillhouse by an 11-0 final on Sept. 21. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Senior Rhett Newton and the Hand boys’ soccer squad notched shutout wins over Career-Hillhouse and Sheehan and then played Xavier to a tie in last week’s matchups. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
After Greg Cumpstone stepped down as head coach and superstar Scott Testori graduated from last year’s undefeated team, the trajectory of the Hand boys’ soccer squad was uncertain entering the 2021 season. However, new Head Coach Neil Phillips and the Tigers are proving that they’re once again a force to be reckoned with after starting off the campaign with a record of 5-0-1.
“Having replaced a successful coach, it’s been really nice how the program has quickly taken to me,” Coach Phillips said. “From freshmen right to the varsity level, I have made sure I’ve spent time on the field with every player in the program. Freshmen and junior varsity are so important to the program, and I want those players to have that feeling.”
During the first week of the season, Hand outscored its opponents by a 15-1 margin en route to winning all three of its games. Last week, the Tigers earned two wins and a tie, posting shutouts in each of their three contests.
On Sept. 21, the Tigers traveled to New Haven and defeated Career-Hillhouse by an 11-0 score. Senior Aiden MacKay scored four goals in the victory, while fellow senior Dante Crudo netted a pair of goals for the Tigers. Senior Sam Wheeler, senior Graham Wilker, junior Matt Marra, junior Josh Perez, and junior Jack Simpson added one goal apiece for Coach Phillips’s squad.
“The current varsity team is a great bunch of boys,” said Phillips. “It’s an absolute pleasure working with them every day.”
Two days later, the Tigers hosted Sheehan and claimed an 8-0 victory at the Surf Club. Crudo tallied four goals, and MacKay scored two goals in Hand’s lopsided win. Wilker and fellow senior Ben Agerbaek both chipped in with one goal.
Hand finished off its week by traveling to Middletown to take on Xavier on Sept. 25. The Tigers battled the Falcons to a 0-0 stalemate in the game.
Coach Phillips feels pleased with his team’s strong start to the season. Phillips is doing his homework on Hand’s opponents and looks forward to seeing how the Tigers progress through the course of the campaign.
“I’m new to the SCC and have been out of the loop of high school boys’ soccer for a while,” Phillips said. “I’d love to have more knowledge of the boys’ high school level and competition we will face. I’ve taken the time to attend every opponent’s games to scout and learn about them.”
Hand’s senior captains for the 2021 season are defender Jackson Malary and midfielder Sam Wheeler. Coach Phillips said that both players have done an excellent job of leading the squad both on and off the field.
“I had the pleasure of coaching [Malary] when he was 12 years old. So, to work with him again as a senior captain in nice,” said Phillips. “As for Sam, he can play anywhere across the midfield. I love how tenacious he is and he’s really gotten a lot of the goals from midfield. Every successful team has high scoring midfielders, so it’s a great start.”
Hand’s senior class also features Gavin Jorens, Jacob Kraft, Sebastien Lowy, Joseph Mazzarella, Rhett Newton, Timothy Perez, Jacques Violette, and Sam Wheeler. The other juniors on the team are Matt Ciampini, Adam Coe, David Howe, and Charlie Wira. The Tigers’ sophomore corps includes Daniel McSweeney, Santiago Barrera, and Nathaniel Kraft.
“Being new, I’m looking forward to seeing them all play. In a squad of 22, only two players played regularly the past two years. I’m excited to see them all take on the messages on I am giving them,” Coach Phillips said. “So far, everyone has played a lot of soccer this season. It’s been nice to reward commitment and hard work with playing time.”
Coach Phillips is excited about taking the reins of a program that’s seen a tremendous level of success in recent years. More than anything, Phillips wants the Tigers to complete an entire season without any hitches due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even the professional level players are still being affected by COVID. It’s still out there. All we can do is continue to remind players to follow the guidelines,” said Phillips. “We as coaches also do little things, like washing equipment after each session. My pinnies have never smelled so good.”