Experience Big Plus For Hopedale Boys Soccer Team

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Greg LaBossiere is in his10th year as Hopedale’s coach
Issue Date: 
October, 2019
Article Body: 

The Hopedale High boys soccer team has a variety of strengths and one of those assets could play a vital role as the Blue Raiders set their sights on achieving three objectives during the 2019 season.
“We want to qualify for the tournament, win the Dual Valley Conference title and capture the District championship,’’ said coach Greg LaBossiere whose squads have advanced to the playoffs five times in his nine years at the helm. “We’ve got some strengths, like athleticism, a high soccer IQ, depth, solid technique and coachable players.’’
Hopedale’s prime plus, however, is its overall experience — 12 returning players saw action last year. And, if the last two post-season appearances are any indicator, the Blue Raiders just might have the key ingredient to reach their three goals.
“Last year, we finished at 12-4-2, earned a bye, beat Quaboag, then lost to Bromfield, 1-0, in overtime in the Division 4 semifinals,’’ LaBossiere recalled. “In 2017, we lost to Bromfield in the District final. Our last two playoff runs have helped us gain experience. Reaching our goals is realistic. It won’t be easy but we’re optimistic.’’
This year’s Blue Raiders are basically a sophomore-junior group that has only three seniors. The trio, however, has a plethora of talent. Co-captain Blake Moxim is a key midfielder; Nate Bean is a top-notch outside back and Evan Gaus is a capable defender.
“Blake is a physical presence in the middle,’’ LaBossiere said. “A good leader, he likes one-on-one challenges. He passes effectively and he’s a key in transition, but it’s his overall physicality that sets him apart.
Bean and Gaus are also playing major roles. “Nate is athletic, his instincts are good and his speed and endurance are excellent,’’ LaBossiere noted. “Evan is athletic, fast and quick. His soccer IQ on the defensive end is very high.’’
Goalie Kiro Bebawi is a talented junior who started last year and had a goals-against average of 2.00 along with three shutouts. “Kiro is instinctive, athletic and technically sound,’’ LaBossiere emphasized. “He kept us in the tourney game against Bromfield by making some big saves. We look to him to be a vocal leader.’’
Juniors Sean Ryan and Amer Hukanovic will handle the center-back chores. “Both Sean and Amer played as freshmen,’’ LaBossiere said. “Sean has a high soccer IQ and he’s smart, athletic, strong and quick. Amer is developing into a vocal leader. He’s a fine communicator who’s smart and fast. And, his endurance is a plus.’’
Asmir Hukanovic and co-captain Trevor Hibbert are junior midfielders who are offensive-minded. “Asmir is an attacking midfielder who’s technically savvy and solid in transition. He’s smart and his ball control is good. Trevor, who can also play striker, has speed, strength and endurance. His footwork also is effective. Asmir had five goals and five assists last year and Trevor also had five goals.’’
Tyler Small and John McDonough are juniors who’ll be counted on as a striker and outside midfielder, respectively. Small had four goals last year and McDonough was the first reserve off the bench. “Tyler has speed, good instincts and an ability to finish,’’ LaBossiere noted. “He’s also a got a high soccer IQ. John’s physical fitness is top-notch, he’s got speed and he’s very capable in transition.’’
LaBossiere is bullish on sophomore DJ Tucker, a durable weapon as a center midfielder. He started every game as a freshman. “DJ’s technical ability is great, his soccer IQ is off the charts and he’s got speed, quickness and endurance,’’ said LaBossiere, who’s in his seventh year as a special education teacher in Hopedale. “Although DJ’s defense is his strength, he could be more of an offensive threat this season.’’
Five other sophomores who’ll get varying degrees of playing time include striker Mike Luzi; defenders Gabe Bean and Jason Reed; and midfielders Steven Marchionni and Nate Hall. “They were jayvee leaders last year,’’ LaBossiere said. “They’ll provide depth. Their skill level is good and they’ll gain valuable experience this year.’’
The Blue Raiders will likely rely on a patient, pass-oriented style but will also be flexible and adaptive when a fast-paced attack could be beneficial. “We’ll try to be a possession-style team but if we have a chance to get results utilizing an up-tempo offense against a specific opponent, we’ll adjust our approach,’’ LaBossiere said.
So far, Hopedale’s approach has produced results. The Blue Raiders are 3-0-1 with victories over Maynard, Holy Name and Uxbridge. They tied Douglas.
Nipmuc, which is the defending DVC champion, again will be in the mix to contend for the league crown. Although one of Hopedale’s goals is to win the DVC championship, LaBossiere knows the pennant race will be a battle. “Nipmuc and Douglas will be aiming for the league title,’’ LaBossiere noted. “They’re talented, have tradition and are well-coached. Whitinsville Christian could also be a surprise.’’
The Blue Raiders junior-varsity squad will again be coached by Mike Emus and he gets high marks from LaBossiere. “Mike does a great job in developing talent and getting players ready to compete at the varsity level,’’ LaBossiere said.
When prospective players join the varsity roster, they quickly know where the 33-year-old LaBossiere stands in terms of his competitive philosophy. “At the varsity level, winning is high on the list but it’s also about learning life lessons,’’ he emphasized. “If players are reaching their potential and enjoying their athletic participation, then winning will follow. Life lessons that kids can learn through sports include being resilient, accountable and responsible. Leadership skills can be developed and mental toughness can be an asset.’’
The Hopedale boys soccer team should be in a good place when the 2019 season concludes. Both on and off the field.