Middle Park soccer going for 10 W’s this season
Looking to go undefeated throughout its 2021 campaign, the Middle Park boys soccer team is off to a good start with a 9-1 season opening victory Saturday at home vs. Bruce Randolph.
The Panthers have a shortened 10-game season this year, all Frontier League contests, reduced from the normal 15 games due to COVID-19. With that slate, Middle Park aims to win all 10 games this year, which would give the Panthers their first-ever league championship.
For that to happen, coach Dane Ruttenberg said the team is going to have to work really, really hard and might even need a little luck along the way.
“I know it’s still a possibility and it’s our goal,” he said.
Working against Middle Park might be the team’s inexperience and limited number of starting players with varsity experience. After graduating 12 last year, the Panthers will rely heavily upon the team’s three returning players who started varsity games last year — Ethan Ruttenberg, Gustavo Galaviz and Adrian Rios.
“Most of the guys that played (Saturday vs. Bruce Randolph) weren’t even on varsity last year,” coach Ruttenberg said, explaining that some of the younger players are going to have to step up.
That means Middle Park is expecting big things from Panthers like starting fullback Andy Troccoli and Ryan Bole, who are both sophomores. Bole didn’t play soccer his freshman year, but he was a force Saturday as Middle Park faced Bruce Randolph.
“We would be a completely different team if we didn’t have him, so I’m really glad he decided to come back to the sport,” Dane Ruttenberg said.
Also a sophomore, Corbin Solomon had a strong season last year and is out for soccer again.
“I knew his quality,” coach Ruttenberg said. “(Solomon) had 12 goals and eight assists as a JV player, so I knew he was going to produce, and he showed it (Saturday). He just needs to be a little more selfish and go to the goal, use his speed a little more.”
The team will also need strong leadership from seniors like Mason Chamberlin at center-mid and Alex Holinka, who’s in his first year playing a critical role on defense as the team’s starting center-back.
“I have complete confidence in him,” the coach said. “(Holinka) is really smart and he’s a commanding presence.”
Middle Park’s defense is anchored in the goal by Ethan Ruttenberg, who’s entering his fourth year starting on varsity. Behind him, goalkeeper Ethan Blake is another quality player for the Panthers.
“We really have two starting goalies,” coach Ruttenberg said of the lineup.
Dominating Bruce Randolph, Middle Park got goals early and often. The Panthers raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first half and then outscored the Grizzlies 6-1 in the second.
The defense held strong throughout the game with Ethan Ruttenberg recording three saves, allowing no goals and getting the win. Blake came in during the second half and recorded one save. The coach took much of the blame for the Grizzlies’ lone goal.
“For many of these guys, it was their first varsity game (Saturday), and they played like they’ve been doing it all along,” coach Ruttenberg said. “I’m pleased with especially the second half. I thought we started the first half strong and then took our foot off the pedal. That really was the conversation for halftime: ‘You can’t let up.’”
It’s going to be a busy week for Middle Park with the Panthers facing Jefferson on Wednesday and DSST: Montview on Friday, both at MPHS.
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