Somerville takes over the No. 1 spot in the first ESPNBoston.com boys’ soccer Top 20 poll of the 2013 season (CLICK HERE).
The Highlanders were ranked No. 2 at the end of last season, after losing to state champion Needham in the semifinal, and bring back senior forward Thayrone Miranda, one of the most dynamic players in the state.
The defending champion Rockets drop down to no. 9 in the poll after losing 9 of 11 starters from last year’s team, including the program’s all-time leading scorer and ESPNBoston.com Mr. Soccer Mac Steeves. As many coaches have pointed out this preseason, with legendary head coach Don Brock prowling the sidelines it is impossible to count out Needham.
New Bedford and star midfielder Klisman Souza jump into the No. 2 slot on the advice of just about every coach and player that was spoken to this preseason. The Whalers have the potential and depth to be a great team, as long as they stay focused and avoid getting frustrated against teams that are going to be physical and try to kick them out of games.
FRANKLIN STILL ON TOP
On the girls’ side, defending D1 champion Franklin holds on to the No. 1 ranking that it claimed at the end of 2012 (CLICK HERE FOR POLL). Although the Panthers will not have prolific, All-American forward Kristi Kirshe, Franklin brings back 8 of 11 starters and will expect junior Taylor Cogliano to provide the team with offensive punch.
As one coach put it, “The road to the D1 title still runs through Franklin.”
A number of the teams that held on to top spots last year have dropped because of the graduation of superstars (more on that below), including No. 9 Medfield, which went unbeaten in winning the D2 title. The Warriors could very well be at the top of the poll at the end of the year but, with five freshmen on the roster and a host of players taking on more responsibility, it may be a while before Medfield reaches its potential.
Needham is a team to watch out for this season with junior midfielder Kayla Steeves and sophomore forward Rachel Kingston, among others. The Rockets could make a run similar to the one that the Needham boys went on last season. Other teams making preseason noise are Winchester and North Andover, which each drew praise from opposing coaches over the past two weeks.