Even for a junior college athletic program that’s used to turnover, the CCRI men’s soccer team has had a lot of it the last few years. Sometimes, it’s felt like a completely new team is taking the field for fall camp.
That changes this year.
“We’re getting a number of guys back, and that’s big for us,” said head coach Gabe Toro. “In the past, it’s always been kind of hit or miss and it’s been tough to keep guys. Even keeping four or five is huge for us.”
Five is the number this season, and it gives the Knights some confidence as they try to improve on a 5-8-1 campaign.
“It’s a little base, a little foundation,” Toro said. “It’s always difficult to lose so many guys. To have a solid core coming back this year is great.”
Leading the way for the Knights is goalkeeper Rob Gallucci, a Coventry native who had a solid season in net for CCRI as a freshman.
“He’s a good player and a great leader for us,” Toro said.
The other returning players are Luis Navas, Chris Fernandes, Luis Duarte and Freddy Korsah. Navas will anchor the midfield, while Fernandes can play midfield and forward and Duarte can play midfield and defense.
Korsah, a native of Ghana, is a natural defender. CCRI needed help up front last year and moved him there, since he’s tall and physically imposing. With several newcomers joining the fold on the front line this year, Korsah can move back to defense. That unit may turn into a strength.
In general, the experience will be crucial as the Knights jump into a tough schedule.
“I think just having that experience is big,” Toro said. “It’s my fourth year as the head coach, and our new guys are always shocked at how competitive the league is. With the guys we have coming back, they can share and really let the new players know what it takes. I want them to step up to the occasion.”
CCRI will have several talented newcomers who should be up to the task this season. The group includes players from across Rhode Island as well as two from Connecticut. Top talents include Justin Kue and former North Kingstown standout Adam Corey, an explosive striker.
“We’re excited to get the pieces together and have a positive season,” Toro said. “Training camp has been good so far. They’re progressing and we’re getting them up to speed on fitness.”
With the nature of junior college athletics – and the fact that practice begins before the fall semester starts – it’s been tough for the team to get things squared away early on, which has set CCRI up for some slow starts.
With the nucleus back this year, Toro is hoping that changes, too.
“We came on at the end of the season last year,” Toro said. “We’re hoping to start sooner this year.”
The schedule will be challenging, but that’s by design. Toro is pushing to get the program back to where it once was, as a New England power. Playing the best is part of the formula.
“In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, CCRI was always really good,” Toro said. “We’ve tried to get more good teams on our schedule and get back to that.”
The Knights are also looking for consistency. In addition to angling for more early success, the team is looking to be better at home. Last year, the Knights were oddly more successful on the road.
“We just want to be more consistent overall,” Toro said.
The goal is to take the next step in the program’s development, and a region championship would be a good place to start.
“That’s my goal,” Toro said. “It’s always a battle with Dean and Massasoit. Hopefully, we can contend with them this year.”
CCRI opens the regular season at home against Bunker Hill on Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.