When Mickey Rooney looks at his Bishop Hendricken soccer team, he doesn’t see a ton of variance among the players. What he does see, though, is competition across the board, and that’s the key this season.
The Hawks don’t necessarily have a ton of standouts, but they have solid players who are trying to get better while also trying to separate themselves. Because there is so much similarity, not much is set in stone, and everyone is trying to get on the field.
“They’re going to have to work to play,” Rooney said. “Nothing is given. Everyone is going to be working, everyone is going to be challenging for position and for playing time.”
That should breed a hungry team that hopes to be versatile and in contention when the playoffs come around.
It’s a brand new look for the Hawks. Last season, the team was mired in an unheard-of scoring slump, and it went just 3-8-3 in the regular season before winning a playoff game over North Kingstown. Its run came to an end in the quarterfinals against La Salle, however, and Rooney hopes that’s where his team’s scoring drought ended as well.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t getting shots or creating something,” Rooney said. “I don’t know what it was. Hopefully it’s going to be a good year for us scoring goals.”
During Tuesday’s Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament, there were ups and downs on the offensive front. Junior forward/midfielder Luis Lawrence headed home a goal in a 1-0 win over Warwick Vets, but the team was held scoreless in an eventual shootout loss to Toll Gate in the title game.
Still, the team attitude was on display. Junior defender John Hindinger had three shots on goal from his spot in the back.
“We want everyone be a defender when we don’t have the ball and everyone to go on offense when we’ve got it,” Rooney said. “Then whoever scores, scores.”
It’s a different recipe for what is largely a different team. All-division players like Shane Davidson, Dan Levesque, Paul Phillips and Brexton Kinney have graduated. The team’s most top returning player is senior forward/midfielder Brandon Silvestri, who was named honorable mention all-division last year.
The lack of star power is just fine with Rooney.
“We’re taking little steps,” he said. “I really like this team.”
It’s all about versatility. In the back, seniors Brady Chant and Justin Matrone are returning contributors from last year, and they’ll be joined by Hindinger and junior Reed Worthington. Senior Anthony Graziano is also poised to help out.
“We’ve got five or six defenders that we can interchange,” Rooney said. “That’s this whole team. We’ve got like six midfielders we can interchange and then four guys up front who should score goals.”
In the midfield, Silvestri will play a big role, as will Lawrence, while freshman Lucas Gesmundo is stepping in to a varsity spot in his first season at the high school level. Sophomore Christian Kirby is expected to take a step forward, as are juniors Brennan Martin and Jakob Franklin.
Up front, Silvestri, Lawrence and senior Chris Cambio will likely handle most of the duties.
“The way it’s going to work with this team is depending on who we’re playing against, we’ll change systems,” Rooney said. “We’re going to play two or three different systems. We can match up our players into that system, so it’s not always going to be the same 11 starting. That makes it a little bit more competitive.”
In net, would-be junior Matt Creamer is not returning after a solid sophomore season, as he has gone on to prep school to play hockey. Taking his place is the tandem of senior Dan Escobar and junior Alex Amado
Other players on the roster are Christian Leonard, Brennan Bica, Alexander Leite, Gianfranco Paterno, Andrew Leveillee, Craig Conway and Nick Williams.
“The majority of them can interchange,” Rooney said. “It’s coming down to me picking the right guys, really. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Rooney will be trying to guide his team back to its winning ways, as it had four straight seasons above .500 before last year’s three-win campaign, including a state runner-up finish in 2009.
He’s not quite sure where the Hawks will slot in, but the ability is there. Hendricken hasn’t won a state championship since 1998.
“We’re going to have to work hard,” Rooney said. “Like last year, on any given day anyone can beat anybody. That’s for sure. There’s nobody that I would say, they’re the favorites this year. I think there’s a whole bunch of people who can win it, and the best thing is that no one is mentioning us.”
The Hawks will waste no time seeing where they stack up. They open the season on Friday at defending state champion Barrington at 6 p.m.
Rooney anticipates a few growing pains but thinks this team is built for the long haul.
“I’m anxious,” Rooney said. “Barrington is a great tester. It’s going to be a very interesting year. Game to game, we’re going to get better and better. If I was the opposition, I’d like to play us first couple games of the season. But towards the playoffs, I would not want to play us.”