Broadalbin-Perth boys soccer coach Billy Eipp talks to his team during practice Wednesday in Broadalbin. Eipp is replacing Brian Henry, who stepped down following the 2016 season after 15 years as a head coach. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
BROADALBIN — Plenty will be different with the Broadalbin-Perth boys soccer team this season: A new coach, a new tactical formation and an influx of new players to replace huge losses to graduation. But the expectations for the Patriots remain as high as ever.
Billy Eipp has taken over as B-P’s new head coach, replacing Brian Henry, who stepped away from the job after last season following 16 seasons that included 181 wins, two sectional titles and a 2011 Class B state championship. Eipp, a veteran B-P assistant and former standout player at both Northville High School and The College of Saint Rose, isn’t looking to reinvent the mold Henry created during his tenure, but certainly wants to leave his own stamp on a program that’s consistently been among the elite in Section II Class B competition for the last decade.
“I’ve coached every one of them, but it does help that I’m not trying to break the mold of someone who’s already ingrained,” said Eipp, whose team will open its season Aug. 25 at B-P’s newly-renovated Patriot Field against his alma mater, Northville. “It’s a good group. We’re excited.”
It is in many ways a vastly different group from the B-P team that stormed to a No. 1 ranking in the statewide Class B poll last season, won the Foothills Council North Division, shared the overall league title in Queensbury and went undefeated until an upset loss to Voorheesville in the sectional semifinals.
Ten players, including eight starters, graduated from that team. That group combined to account for 47 goals and 44 assists, led by 16 goals and 19 helpers — and a flip throw that the team used to devastating effect — from Foothills Council most valuable player Stephen Spraker, 12 goals and six assists from Griffin Goodemote and nine goals and nine assists from Ryan Zajaceskowski. The Patriots also lost the backbone of their defense in the duo of Jacob Bunker and John Person.
That’s not to say the team that will take the field this year is bereft of talent or experience. Will Austin scored 13 goals and three assists as a junior while showing a knack to come up with big goals in important situations. Zach Monks has been a presence on the varsity squad since he was a freshman, Devon Holz chipped in nine goals last season and Jared Eipp provided eight assists.
There’s also the steady hands of Ian Halloran, now a senior, manning the goal for his fourth and final season. Halloran allowed just eight goals and saved nearly 90 percent of the shots he faced in 2016. His 29 career shutouts are tied with Chris Herba for the most in program history, and another solid season could see him inside the top five all-time in Section II in that category — a club that, as of now, consists entirely of former Fort Ann keepers.
Billy Eipp’s spent his time since taking over for Henry attempting to build this year’s version of the Patriots.
“I ran spring soccer, and I had five of the guys on the spring team,” he said. “We’ve already started feeling things out.”
“We’re not huge on numbers,” he added. “We’ve only got 16 and we’ve got a few 10th graders on the team, given that we lost eight starters from last year. We’re young, but the kids are into it and they’re raring to go.”
With Eipp taking over the head coaching job, he’s also making a bit of a tactical switch from the 4-4-2 formation that Henry traditionally favored to a 4-2-3-1 set-up that he’s hoping will play to this particular team’s strengths, which Eipp said are “a lot of energy, a lot of quickness, a lot of speed.”
The early days of practice have largely been about implementing those tactical and positional changes, but already Eipp can see progress.
“We’re in a learning phase right now, but I think that tactically, when we move the ball quick and we use what we have, we’re gonna be real competitive,” he said.
As always, the Patriots expect to be in the mix near the top of the Foothills and in the Class B postseason, but Eipp’s not ready to make any bold predictions until he sees what the Patriots do once they get up against some actual competition.
“Some people watching us said, ‘Wow, you look good,’ but as a coach, you’re never good enough,” he said. “I think we’re gonna be as tough as we possibly can be.”