Thomas Dale is a football school- both in the American and European sense. The Knights soccer program has been one of the most consistent and successful programs in the region since Mark Fowler took the program over in 1998. In 2012, the Knights fell in the state semi-finals to Colonial Forge 4-2 on penalty kicks, and are looking to improve on that performance and get back to the promised land when they won back-to-back state championships in 2005 and 2006.
“We always take everything a game at a time,” stated Fowler. “We remain grounded, but if things fall into place we have the potential to be one of the top teams in the region again this year.”
Last year, the Knights finished 20-2-1 and graduated one of the best players in program history in Dan Lauretano, who recently earned All-ACC Academic honors at Virginia Tech. This year’s team doesn’t feature a ‘Lauretano-type’ player but will be balanced from top to bottom.
“Some of these guys on this roster have played together since they were eight,” explained Fowler. “This team will be quick and be skilled at handling the ball.”
Athletic senior forward Grayson Smith is expected to score the ball along with senior Brooks Reiber. Evan and Vaughan Fowler, both Longwood commits, will provide solid play for the Knights as well. Senior Austin Correia is also expected to have another standout year.
“It’s going to be a group effort,” said Fowler. “Hopefully we’ll just be too much for people to handle.”
One opportunity the Knights have to work on is on the defensive side of the ball. The Knights’ defensive backfield graduated, and adjustments in this aspect of the game will depend on how quickly players learn their new jobs. Junior Matt Peloquin is one of the players that will be moving to the backfield and will need to learn and step up quickly.
“Everything has to click,” explained Fowler. “The guys moving to different positions will need to adjust.”
Fowler expects the greatest competition to dethrone the Knights from winning their 14th straight Central District championship to come in the form of the Colonial Heights Colonials and the Matoaca Warriors, teams that have recently performed well, but have been unable to knock the Knights off for the championship. Cosby, Mills Godwin, Deep Run and James River are teams that should compete for the region this year along with the Knights.
It appears the Knights will be a legitimate contender once again in 2013.
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