By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- A lack of familiarity certainly won't be one of the challenges facing the Amsterdam High School boys soccer team this fall.
"We've got a bunch of guys returning, and we're all friends with each other," senior midfielder Jared Gallup said prior to Monday's practice at AHS. "No one argues with each other. It's like a family."
In their second year under head coach Adam Fetterly, the Rams are built around a solid group of seniors -- Gallup, Andrew DiSalvi, Jared Weissman and Dom Peluso among them -- who will lead the club into its Sept. 5 season opener on the Lynch Literacy Academy turf against La Salle Institute.
Beyond that platoon of seniors and a pair of potent junior forwards in Andrew Druziak and Taliq Sims. However, Fetterly admitted that when the team opened preseason practice last week, the rest of his squad was a bit of an unknown quantity.
"The first day, I was a little nervous," Fetterly said. "People started to flutter in after the first couple days, and I think we'll have a good starting lineup this year."
The last week has Fetterly and his seniors feeling confident about improving on last season's 6-10-1 campaign that was stalled by player absences due to injury and academic issues before ending with a Section II Class A opening-round playoff loss to Averill Park.
"We're looking good. Everyone was more in shape than I thought they would be," Peluso said. "Skill-wise, everyone's good. We've got a few younger people on the team, which is good.
"We've all been playing together over the summer, so we're familiar with each other," he added.
After a week of practices, the Rams will get a first look at how they'll shape up during the season with a scrimmage against Duanesburg -- the first of two tune-ups Amsterdam will have before kicking off the season properly against an LSI team that handed the Rams a frustrating overtime loss a season ago.
"I'm very excited about having scrimmages this year," Fetterly said. "They don't count on our schedule, obviously, and just being able to see what we need to work on before the first game will really be important this year, because we could potentially have some holes and making our way to fill those holes will take some work."
The scrimmages stand in place of what had become Amsterdam's traditional head-first dive into the season in the Labor Day weekend Fulton County Stop DWI Cup at Broadalbin-Perth, but with that tournament not being held this year, the Rams are making due with some unofficial work before opening Big 10 play -- something that senior midfielder DiSalvi said has both benefits and drawbacks.
"I kind of miss playing B-P. I liked going up against them every year," DiSalvi said. "The results have been ugly, but any scrimmage -- we haven't had scrimmages in the past, really -- should help us get off to a better start."
With DiSalvi, Gallup and Weissman manning the midfield and Peluso holding down the fort on defense to help make up for the losses of John Hardies, Anthony Stewart, Connor Kilgallen and Harpreet Singh to graduation, the Rams are confident that the experience in their corner will give them a leg up on several Big 10 teams that were hit even harder by graduation.
"We've got a lot of seniors, and a lot of other teams lost all their seniors," DiSalvi said. "We've been together all our lives -- playing travel, playing this, playing that -- and we just have a bond with each other."
Gallup is hopeful that bond will help carry the Rams to the three goals the team has set for the season: A top-three finish in the Big 10, an improved sectional seed and a sectional playoff victory.
"No fooling around," Gallup said. "We want to win this year."