Who can blame them? The Skipjacks won only two games.
First-year coach Michael Kozlowski believes he has the answer for a turnaround.
“One of the first things I mentioned when I took the job was changing the culture,” Kozlowski says. “I want to have a really hardworking team that really cares about each other. The two returning players (Matthew Donohue, Philip Malta) are leaders and work well with the new players. With those guys and the talent we have brought in, there is a lot of optimism to produce a winning record.”
Freshman midfielder Cody Mesias, who co-captains the team with freshman defender Caleb Tullous, says Kozlowski demands a lot out of his players, and as a result has boosted expectations.
“He is pushing us in every way to get better,” Mesias explains. “He is getting us to do more on the field and off the field.”
Good luck finding a weakness on Chesapeake’s overhauled roster. The Skipjacks are loaded at midfield, forward and defense and solid in the goal with freshman Ryan Barde.
Kozlowski raves about his midfield, which boasts freshmen James Mister, Jordy Cordova, Mesias and Donohue, a sophomore.
“We have some really strong players there,” says Kozlowski, who coached the men’s team last year at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville. “They are very technical players. They have a high soccer I.Q. They moved the ball very well and have a lot of speed. They are also leaders, too. They run the show.”
Those talented midfielders will be feeding a potentially high-scoring frontline that features freshmen Brandt Swann, Austin Werner and Nevin Hamami.
“Austin and Nevin are running things up top,” Kozlowski explains. “Both are big, strong fast players. I wouldn’t be surprised if they score 20 goals between them.”
Werner, a Glen Burnie resident and Archbishop Spalding graduate, has the potential to lead the team in scoring.
“He played club and at Spading for me,” Kozlowski says. “He is just a natural athlete. He is all over the field and always getting behind the backline. When he is in front of the goal, he puts away his opportunities.”
Kozlowski also has a lot of confidence in a defense spearheaded by freshman Hayden Kessinger, Caleb Tulloous, Bradley King and Erick Lopez.
Kozlowski has been especially impressed with Kessinger.
“I can’t say I have ever really coached a more solid player,” he says. “He is not too flashy. He just gets the job done.”
The defense protects Barde, who is backed up by freshman goalie Jacob Grimplin.
“He has size you want in a keeper, sure hands and is very aggressive,” Kozlowski says. “The decision to make him the starter was very easy and I think he’s going to have a great year.”
Mesias says Kozlowski’s turnaround effort seems to be working.
Through Chespeake started 0-2 — with losses coming to Northern Virginia Community College (3-2 in OT) and County College of Morris (5-2) — the Skipjacks expect to win their share of games.
“He is very serious about change,” Mesias explains. “His job is getting us to enjoy soccer and we are really doing that. We have a great new coach and a lot of talented players. We are headed in the right direction.”