WYE MILLS - Chesapeake College men’s soccer coach Tony Lhotsky is brimming with confidence about the prospects for success this fall.
The Skipjacks boast a roster of 18 players – five more than Lhotsky had during the team’s last full season two years ago.
All of those players suggest that Chesapeake is heading in a positive direction. “These guys are really pushing each other to do better versus showing up and just running through drills,” Lhotsky said. “With those numbers, if guys are not producing or are not in the right state of mind for a game or practice, we can switch out players that are equal if not better.”
All of that talent has raised expectations after a string of losing seasons. Lhotsky’s team struggled to a 1-12 mark in 2009. The team’s best record since 2012 came the year before when the Skipjacks finished 5-10.
But now the coach feels the Skipjacks are on the rise.
“Everybody on this roster wants to create something out of the program,” Lhotsky explained. “They all come from a soccer background. My first year, I think I just had athletes to fill positions. These players have a lot of heart.
“Everybody on this roster is willing to work really hard,” he added. “I would like to see us go beyond .500. With the squad that we have, I think we will be able to do that.”
Lhotsky built his team around an excellent core of veterans. Brothers Kyle and Connor Kastel and Eli McKenrick started for Lhotsky two years ago and were part of a team last spring that went 1-1-2 in a month-long, pandemic-shortened season.
Joseph Myers, Nathan Rice and Hunter Wristen were also starters on the spring squad.
“They know what to expect as far as the style of play that (assistant) coach Mike Brophy and I want,” Lhotsky said. “So the good thing is they are speaking up to the younger guys during practice. They are very supportive of the younger guys. The guys coming back are not the most vocal guys, but they lead by example.”
Lhotsky has been particularly impressed with Fernando Sanchez, a freshman from North Dorchester High. He’s expected to give the team a spark at the midfield.
“I really like the way he attacks the ball,” the coach said. ”He has the confidence to strike from far distances because of his excellent shot.”
Sanchez forms the midfield along with the Kastel brothers and Myers. Michael Kroeger and Mason Worm are competing for playing time at the position.
They’ll be feeding a frontline that includes Rice and two freshmen, Lucas Sloan and Terrance Espinal.
The Skipjacks are also in good shape on defense. Jordan Acree, Devin Lord and McKenrick highlight the unit.
Thomas Burke, Conner Todd, Kevin Rivera and Austin Romberger provide solid depth.
“They anticipate well instead of reacting,” said Brophy, who coaches the defense. “They are really a bunch of smart players. That is one of their big strengths.”
They’ll be protecting sophomore goalie Hunter Wriston, a returning starter. He’s backed up by freshman Elmer Martinez.
“He will go immediately after a game and watch film of it to see what we did well and not so well,” Brophy said. “He really wants to learn.”
Chesapeake seems to have all the ingredients for a breakthrough season.
“The team is coming together the way I thought it would,” said Lhotsky, whose team lost its season opener to Montgomery College on August 26. “We have the talent and I think we will surprise a lot of teams.”