The memories of the Concord-Carlisle boys soccer team’s back-to-back state championships during the last two seasons will last forever.
The confidence and pride the returning Patriots gained while winning those titles could help them through some tough spots this fall.
But for now, there’s work to be done.
On Thursday, C-C began double sessions to prepare for the upcoming season. Approximately 75 candidates reported to CCHS to try out for the varsity and JV squads.
“For the most part, I’m happy with at least the conditioning,” said C-C coach Ray Pavlik, who is starting is 10th season in charge of the program. “The kids made a decision that they wanted to improve themselves. They know there are a lot of openings and they see the opportunity.”
C-C graduated 14 from last year’s varsity.
“We lost some quality players, a lot of kids who had been with the team for three years,” Pavlik said. “We do have a pretty good nucleus of kids returning. Most of the returning players played significant roles last season. We had an undefeated JV team last year and some of those kids are ready to step in.”
Most of the Patriots’ losses to graduation are on defense, but they return two-year starter and co-captain Chris Walker-Jacks at sweeper.
“It’s going to require a lot of communication,” said Walker-Jacks, who arrived at C-C during has sophomore year after attending Concord Academy as a freshman. “It’s a team defense. Teams win championships.”
While Thursday was the first official practice session for C-C, many players have been working together throughout the summer.
“We tried to get together as often as we could,” said co-captain Mike O’Brien, who has been on the varsity since his freshman year. “We played pickup games and did fitness. It wasn’t everyone, but most of us did it.”
Both O’Brien and Walker-Jacks played on the C-C lacrosse team that reached the MIAA Division 2 East finals last spring. O’Brien also plays hockey.
“Those experiences give me confidence,” said O’Brien, who has a chance to become the program’s all-time leading scorer this fall. “At the same time, each sport has its own challenges.”
Walker-Jacks plays for the FC Greater Boston Bolts club soccer team.
“Out of all my soccer experiences, playing for Concord-Carlisle is my favorite,” Walker-Jacks said.
Regardless of how experienced C-C is this fall, the fact that the program has won the last two MIAA Division 2 state titles and three state titles in the last five seasons puts a target on the Patriots’ backs.
“When you look at the last two years, anytime you’ve had that kind of success, obviously everyone wants to knock you off,” Pavlik said. “Our guys like the challenge and they know they have to show up.”
Said O’Brien, “There are a lot of great teams in the state and a lot of them are out to get us.”
Added Walker-Jacks, “I expect they will have a lot of extra motivation.”
In addition to Dual County League and MIAA titles, C-C will also be playing for its 27th straight winning season. It’s a run of success no other program in the state has enjoyed according to Pavlik.
The season opener is on Sept. 7 against Bedford. That doesn’t leave much time for the Patriots to mold themselves into a cohesive unit.
“We have to get a group of kids, some of whom have not played on the varsity level, on the same page,” Pavlik said.