ELLICOTTVILLE — The Ellicottville boys soccer team is off to its best six-game start in years, but perhaps the best news, given the Eagles’ youth, is this could be just that: a start.
The Eagles (4-1-1) have already tied last season’s win total (4-12-1) and more than half of their members (eight of 15) are only sophomores.
“We're still pretty young, but last year they were all freshmen, (now) most of them are sophomores,” Eagles coach Matt Finn said, “so I think it is that one more year of getting older and bigger and stronger and everything else and there are eight sophomores and five of them start already. Last year they were freshmen and they were starting. So we're still pretty young, only four seniors and three juniors.”
Finn credits the work his players do outside of the high school season for the year-to-year improvement.
“It's what they do in the offseason,” he said. “A lot of these guys play for Buffalo teams or Buffalo Soccer Academy and (WNY) Flash and all that, so that helps a ton.”
What have they learned? Finn thought he saw it on Saturday, when the Eagles came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat a visiting Class AA school, Jamestown.
“They've learned how to come back and never be down and just fight through,” Finn said. “I really think that's the difference. I think they realized a 2-0 deficit, they can come back as long as they put it together. They're doing a lot of good things right now.”
Junior Jack Snyder leads the Eagles in both goals (four) and assists (five) through Saturday, while senior Mike McGuire has five points (three goals).
“At the beginning of the season I looked at a couple of them and said 'You're going to have to get close to 10,’” Finn said. “‘We probably won't have a 20, 25-goal scorer. If you get 10 and you get 10 and you get 10, we can have a good season.' But right now we're pretty balanced. We've got three, four, five, somewhere in that range for a bunch of guys. It's nice.”
Ellicottville was projected to move to Class C this season due to change in the state’s classification guidelines, but it de-merged the team after it had no members from West Valley and returned to Class D status. Finn said he hasn’t had boys soccer players from West Valley since 2015. Section 6 has just five Class D schools, so the Eagles hope to return to the championship after winning it in 2013 and 2015, last making the finals in 2016.
Finn still thinks the team has room to improve, but it will get a chance at CCAA East power Allegany-Limestone on Tuesday.
“If we can possess it a little bit better, that will be fantastic,” Finn said. “But we've got a big test on Tuesday with Allegany. They're still the team to beat in our league and everything else. We'll see where we're at on Tuesday.”
The Eagles had to deal with injuries with two starting defenders currently out, including a likely season-ending injury for Kolby Aldrich. Brennan Finn appeared to avoid serious injury after a scary fall against Randolph.
“(We) thought he did something to his shoulder, it's just a bruise thank goodness,” Matt Finn said. “But if we can stay healthy I think we'll be OK.”