Trevor Junquera/Recorder staff Amsterdam's Misha Murdoch takes a shot during soccer practice Monday at Amsterdam High School.
Trevor Junquera/Recorder staff Amsterdam's David Graveley laces up his cleats prior to soccer practice Tuesday at Amsterdam High School.
By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- For Amsterdam High School boys soccer coach Adam Fetterly, the 2013 season was like working with family. A team with a dozen seniors, nearly all of whom he'd coached throughout their high school careers from modified, to junior varsity and then as varsity Rams.
The 2014 season, especially early on, will be a bit more like the first day at a new school -- name tags may be required.
"It's a new challenge for me," Fetterly said. "All these guys are new, and I haven't really had new since modified, seven years ago."
With heavy losses to graduation and a couple key underclassmen deciding to focus on other sports, the Rams return just four players from last year's 8-7-2 squad on this year's team that will enter play in the Foothills Council for the first time. Just two of them, defenders Isaiah Cameron-Murray and Antonio Alvarez, played full varsity seasons in 2013. Midfielder Pat Corcoran missed most of the year after an early-season injury, while freshman Misha Murdoch didn't make his varsity debut as an eighth grader until the latter half of the regular season.
"We're really young this year -- well, inexperienced," Fetterly said. "We're pretty inexperienced here."
Gone are the likes of Jared Gallup, Andrew DiSalvi and Jared Weissman to graduation. In their place are a mostly inexperienced group, including some who have never played soccer at the scholastic level before.
Among that group, however, are several players that Fetterly said are teeming with potential thanks to the athleticism they've displayed as members of the AHS track and field team. Jose Perez is on track to start as the Rams' goalkeeper, while David Graveley -- a Section II champion in the 400-meter hurdles and a member of Amsterdam's state title-winning 4x400-meter relay -- and Gabe Fernandez could give the Rams a major advantage in sheer speed as their experience with a ball at their feet grows.
"They haven't played soccer before, but we're starting day five here and they've picked up quite a bit of soccer," Fetterly said. "Considering that half the time, we're just running, they're touch will come as the season moves on. I really look to us as getting better as the season moves on."
Even in the early days of preseason -- the Rams have two scrimmages scheduled next week and won't open their regular season until Sept. 6 at Johnstown -- the new additions have impressed their veteran teammates with their athleticism.
"A lot of new players, but new players that are older, and they're fast," Corcoran said. "I think they've got a lot of potential."
Without Gallup or Andrew Druziak pulling the strings as attacking midfielders, the Rams may not have the technical ability of the 2013 side just yet, but with Cameron-Murray and Alvarez both returning as starters on defense and a bevy of athletic potential in front of them, Fetterly believes there's an easy formula for Amsterdam to succeed this season.
"I think the key to us being successful this year is just hard work, being aggressive and out-hustling other teams," he said.
To that end, the morning half of the Rams' first week of practice has been heavily focused on conditioning -- like Friday, when practice began with a 25-minute run spanning the AHS property.
And how has that left the players feeling?
"Sore," Cameron-Murray said. "Really, really sore."
But, Cameron-Murray said, that's exactly the kind of work the Rams need to put in to navigate through the Foothills Council, which features Section II soccer powers like Broadalbin-Perth, Queensbury, South Glens Falls and the Scotia-Glenville team that ended Amsterdam's 2013 season in the opening round of the Section II Class A playoffs.
"We kind of know what we're going into," he said. "We're trying to train to keep up with them."
Contact ADAM SHINDER at firstname.lastname@example.org