Head coach: Joe Mendonca (22nd season).
Last year: Wheeler won the ECC Division IV title with an 8-0 record en route to a 12-8 season and a berth in the second round of the Class S state tournament.
Returning to varsity:
Seniors: Bowen Baker (G), Aidan Cameron (D), Dylan Davino (M, captain), Ethan Foberg (M), Connor Melinosky (M, captain), Scott Pion (F, captain), Ian Spracklin (F, captain). Junior: Lukas Jones (D). Sophomores: Michael Caster (D-MF), Grant Colsen (D), Emmanuel Peterle (F), Matt Pierce (M), Blake Stedman (D).
New to varsity:
Sophomores: Andrew Patrick (M), Timothy Robarge (F). Freshmen: Matthew Carrol (M), Owen Foberg (M), Brady Sadowski (F), Max Seeley (M).
Outlook: The Lions return seven seniors and a junior from a 2018 team that won ECC Division IV and played Old Saybrook, the eventual Class S champion, to a scoreless tie before the Rams pulled out a 2-0 win in the state tourney.
Among the returners are three first-team Division IV All-Stars: Baker, Pion (20 goals last season) and Spracklin (17 goals, 19 assists). But Mendonca doesn’t want to hear that his team should have more success this year, stressing that it’s a new season and a new team.
“We as a group are pretty technical,” he said “We just need to be more soccer savvy. We need to play the positions, especially the young guys. They need to understand their roles on the field.”
The three returning All-Stars are going to play critical roles.
“The key player is gonna be Baker in goal,” Mendonca said. “We have Scott and Ian up front. That’s gonna help us, too. And our backline is going to be very good. By midseason we’ll be playing together.”
Mendonca added that he’s going to need his seniors to fill leadership roles and that the Lions have a challenging early schedule as well as two later games against ECC Division III Killingly.
Coach’s take: “Stay positive, look positive, play positive. That’s our goal this year. We want to make the state tournament and try to win ECC Division IV again. Then we’ll see how far we go in the state tournament.”
— Ken Sorensen