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Prep Boys Soccer: North Stafford won’t dwell on 2011 title this season

THE PAST IS PAST, WOLVERINES SAY

AS THEY BEGIN A NEW CAMPAIGN

By ADAM HIMMELSBACH

At the start of this season, the day after North Stafford coach Iric Bressler picked his final varsity roster, he sat his team down for a quick talk.

“I told them this is the last time you’ll hear me talk about last year’s team,” Bressler said. “I said this team wasn’t as talented as them, and they had to work, and I wouldn’t mention last year’s team to them again.”

In case you forgot, last year’s team was really, really good.

The Wolverines were star-studded at multiple positions, from the overpowering goalie Ryan Husted to the dynamic midfielder Kyler Sullivan to the potent striker Polamin Fofana.

North Stafford stormed through the regular season and then went on to win the school’s first-ever Group AAA state crown.

But, as Bressler said, this year’s team is not last year’s team.

Sullivan is a freshman at Virginia, Husted is a freshman at North Florida and Fofana is academically ineligible.

In all, the Wolverines lost seven starters. While it will be quite a challenge for North Stafford to craft a similarly magical season, there are pieces in place for success.

“One thing I try to emphasize to the guys every time I talk to them,” senior midfielder Austin Grebe said, “is that we’re a different team and it’s time to write our own story.”

Grebe, a senior, is a returning co-captain. Last fall, he was the quarterback of North Stafford’s football team, which reached the state semifinals.

That experience, combined with the soccer team’s run last season, have made him quite comfortable on a big stage. This fall, he will kick for Navy’s football team.

But first, he wants one last memorable high school campaign.

“We just need to define our own style,” he said.

North Stafford’s most skilled player is junior midfielder Sheldon Sullivan, Kyler’s younger brother.

This season, Sheldon shifts into the defensive central midfield slot that was previously held by Kyler.

“It’s a big responsibility, but I’m having fun out there,” Sullivan said. “Coach has told me I’ll have a lot more responsibilities.”

Sullivan is being heavily recruited by several Division I programs and he is one of the area’s fastest players.

He will be used primarily as a distributor, but if the Wolverines are trailing and in need of some offensive firepower, Bressler would not hesitate to call on Sullivan.

“When Kyler used to score, he would high-five everybody,” Bressler said. “When Sheldon scored the other night, he did a round-off back-handspring. He’s dynamic with the ball, and he’s got some flair.”

The Wolverines are also expecting consistent contributions from junior midfielder Adiel Manzano and sophomore striker Joey Slye.

Manzano was a starting outside midfielder last season and earned honorable mention all-Commonwealth District recognition. Slye was a late-season JV call-up who provided scoring punch during North Stafford’s playoff run.

Slye was unable to play fall soccer because he was a linebacker on the Wolverines’ football team last fall. Bressler said he is still regaining his touch.

The biggest void to fill, of course, is at goalie. Husted was named The Free Lance–Star’s player of the year last season.

This season North Stafford will turn to Elijah Lecain, a junior who was called up from JV last year.

“He has good instincts and he’s quick,” Bressler said, “and he reminds me of Ryan, in that he’s not afraid to go in the air.”

Now, North Stafford must mesh its new pieces with the old ones. Although the team does not want to talk about last season, it wouldn’t mind repeating it.

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442

ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2012/03/17/prep-boys-soccer-north-stafford-won%e2%80%99t-dwell-on-2011-title-this-season/