Boys’ soccer: ‘an expectation of hard work’

The ARHS boys’ soccer team hold themselves to a high standard on and off the field.

This is in part due to the environment and culture fostered by head coach Michael Rudd.

Junior defender Levi Blinder attested to this. “Rudd expects the most out of you. There’s an expectation of hard work and training hard,” he said.

Coach Rudd is more than just a coach focused on the result on the field.

“It’s about people as well. He makes players better people,” said senior captain Sam Brainin.

Brainin, who ran a soccer camp with Rudd over the summer, said Rudd “gets at how we can be leaders, no matter if we are sophomores or juniors or seniors. It’s just how everyone can step up.”

Unquestionably, leadership is something that the varsity squad is going to need as the post season lurks around the corner.

The season so far has had its ups and downs for the three- time Western Mass Champions.

Currently they are staying afloat as they maintain a record of 7-7.

Although they hold steady at .500, they have gone a meager 0-5 in their division six weeks into the season. However, the team does not seem to be discouraged.

The team’s starting goalkeeper Lucas Morales-Fernandez maintains hope and an optimistic outlook on the team.

“I love this team. This year we have a chance to make it to the Western Mass finals,” he said.

Wanting to win the Western Mass finals and move on to the state championship  is not an unrealistic goal for the boy’s program.

In recent years, the team has had some serious success winning the Western Massachusetts finals in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

While they came up short of winning the state championship in all these years, the idea of it is something that is fresh on the minds of the players. “I’ve dreamed about states since I was 9 years old,” said Brainin.

Brainin talked about some obstacles the team has faced so far.

He remembered “one game against Minnechaug where we had eight guys who were injured, six of them starters.”

The game was on September 20, and Minnechaug won 2-0 the second of an unexpected three game losing streak for the ‘Canes.  

Still, Blinder said he would describe the now-healthy squad as having a lot of really skilled players.”

In particular, the didfield stands out as a particularly talented unit.

“Our midfield has a lot of players who are confident on the ball, and strong they work together really well,” said Blinder.

Juniors Liam Carpenter-Shulman and Brayan Rivas-Martinez both standout for their age and skill set.

Another thing working in favor of this year’s team is the presence of goalkeeper Lucas Morales-Fernandez.

A consistent presence with quick reflexes, and a high level of athleticism, Morales-Fernandez is a very nice insurance policy for the ‘Canes to have on defense.

Other than his skills and physical toolset, Morales-Fernandez is a great communicator and leader.

Blinder said of Morales-Fernandez, “He’s a commanding presence back there when you’re on defense. It’s great when you know you have someone who will tell you where everyone is and if you need to adjust. On top of that he’s one of the best goalies in western mass with his feet. He has goal kicks that go on for miles and are right on point. You can pass it back to him without any fear.”

In order to succeed and get far in the playoffs this year, Amherst is going to need to be able to score goals on a more consistent basis.

While their defense, goalkeeping, and midfield are all talented, the team at times has had a hard time capitalizing on goals.

Finding a consistent source of goals will be imperative for Amherst to advance.

Fortunately for ARHS the team is close. “We still have a good time and we are close friends,” Blinder said.

Brainin summed up the team’s unwavering belief in each other when he said, “When we need to be at the top of our game, we are at the top of our game. That’s our time, we are here for a reason. The people on the team are here for a reason and so I really believe we have what it takes to dig deep. More so than any other team when it comes time.”