More experienced Skipjacks ready to build on last year’s late-season progress
Dennis, with six sophomores back, looks for improved results
WYE MILLS A new head coach and a nearly all-new roster had a lot to do with Chesapeake College’s 1-7 start during the 2010 men’s soccer season. The Skipjacks, however, played much better down the stretch, winning twice over the last five games while finishing 3-10.
Now, second-year head coach Mark Dennis gets to build around six returning players including the entire rear defensive set. That prospect has Dennis anxious to get the season started.
"Last year at this time we were still doing ball control and basic drills," recalled Dennis, who previously coached at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School. "I had to rewrite my practice plans after the first day of practice this season because these guys already had those things down."
Dennis whose team hosts CCBC-Essex on September 1st in a 4 p.m. season opener said the Skipjacks’ biggest improvements are "talent level and depth."
"Last year we had hardly any experience and were often overmatched in skill level on the field," said Dennis. "This year we not only have six returning players, we also have several freshmen who have played in very competitive select-club soccer leagues. They bring a lot more experience than you usually see in players coming straight from high school."
J.T. Nagel and Austin Patchett former teammates at Colonel Richardson High and Kent County High grad Dominic Ramos return in the rear defensive set along with Swedish import Dan Martinsonn. Forward Cody Reese (Queen Anne’s County High) and the versatile Eric Wagenblatt, a Saints Peter and Paul alum who played everything from goalie to forward last season, are the other returning sophomores.
The Skipjacks have also added a seventh sophomore in Ricky Gerbino, who is out for soccer after playing exclusively for the college’s baseball program last year. Dennis said Gerbino and late-signing freshman Luke Kulynycz (Holly Grove/Princess Anne) have so far been "pleasant surprises" with their preseason play.
Three former Kent Island High teammates forward Matt Usilton and defenders Drew Abplanalp and Tyler Fisher are among the incoming freshmen.
"These three guys stepped in from day one fitting right in like they had been here all last year," Dennis said of the Kent Island trio.
Dennis also has a trio of high school teammates from Southern Maryland’s Great Mills High in goalie Jeremy Wallace, midfielder Nikita Alleyne, and forward Sean Millham.
Forward Juan Guzman (North Dorchester High), defender Mitchell Rabbitt (Easton High), and midfielder Austin Frazier (Colonel Richardson High) are also expected to challenge for playing time. "This year my problem which is a good one is that I have several players capable of starting that must wait on the bench and come in as substitutes," said Dennis, who currently has a 17-player roster.
Dennis is pleased to have a more experienced team this year, particularly with two of the first three games against traditional Region XX powers CCBC-Essex and College of Southern Maryland.
"We were outmanned in size, speed, bench numbers, talent and any other measure of the game with those squads last season," said Dennis. "I definitely expect a better showing from us against them this season."
As for the season outlook, Dennis said the team’s improvement may not be completely reflected in the Skipjacks’ won-loss record.
"Our conference is just so strong with Essex, CSM, Montgomery and others that it is always going to be difficult for one of the rural colleges to be at the top," said Dennis. "That said, we should be competitive this season in games we weren’t close in last season, so it should be interesting."
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