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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

KP Boys Soccer Team Has Experience and Athleticism Warriors Aiming for Tourney Return

Mike O’Neil, who’s beginning his fifth year as KP’s boys soccer coach, calls his Warriors “a group that’s coachable and cohesive.’’

By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer

The King Philip boys soccer team will be focusing on three goals this season — to improve as players and people; to contend for the Kelley-Rex Division title in the Hockomock League; and to qualify for the playoffs and go as deep as possible.

Mike O’Neil, who’s beginning his fifth year as the Warriors’ coach, believes those objectives can be achieved, primarily because of his team’s strengths.

“We’ve got a good mix of high soccer IQs and technical skills,’’ O’Neil emphasized. “We’ve also got a group that’s coachable and cohesive. They’re receptive to learning and they promote good team chemistry.’’

Another top-notch attribute is experience. Although KP, which finished 7-11 last year and fell short of a tournament berth, lost 10 veteran players to graduation, O’Neil has a contingent of nine seniors and three juniors who’ve got experience and athleticism.

The Warriors senior captains — Tommy Lomuscio (striker/wing), Dermott Amorim (midfielder), Will Bowen (wing), and Neelam McGrath (defender) — have all the necessary athletic components for success and they’ve got a good mix of leadership styles.

“They lead by example, by being vocal and communicative and by being supportive,’’ O’Neil noted. “They’re responsible and accountable.’’

Lomuscio, who led the team in scoring with five goals and four assists last year as a defender will be in position this season to take advantage of more scoring opportunities. “Tommy is a two-time captain who’s a fierce competitor and leader,’’ O’Neil said. “He’s also a very intelligent player.’’

A native of Long Island, N.Y., O’Neil also has high praise for Amorim, Bowen, and McGrath. “Dermott is a true soccer player,’’ he said. “An intense competitor, he’s versatile. He can play any field position. Will is a creative attacking player who’s committed to improving. We’ll rely on him a lot. And, Neelam is one of our best athletes. He’s a lockdown defender with lots of speed and quickness.’’

Senior Ryan Keller can compete as a midfielder or forward and O’Neil is expecting “a breakout year’’ from him. “Ryan has a nose for the goal, he’s creative and has very good field vision,’’ he said.

Two other seniors who’ll be contributing are midfielder Evan Barker and striker Jack Morgan. “Evan is solid in transition, has excellent close control of the ball and plays with a lot of composure,’’ O’Neil offered. “Jack is physical, relies on instincts and plays with plenty of desire.’’

Two senior goalies — Jake Van Hoesen and Alex Nathan — provide depth at that position. “Jake split time last year with Connor O’Reilly who graduated,’’ O’Neil said. “Jake is an excellent shot-stopper who can shut down an offense. Alex was in school last year in England. His technique is accomplished and he’s very good with his feet.’’

Three juniors, who got their share of playing time last year as sophomores, include Sayan Panda (midfielder), P.J. Sullivan (center back), and Braden Lynn (wing).

“Sayan started last year,’’ O’Neil said. “I like his ability to read the game. Very coachable, he’s an excellent defender and a creative passer. P.J. also was a starter. Relying on quickness and an instinctive nature, he has total commitment to winning the ball. Braden is smart, smooth and very creative as a passer.’’

Two sophomores with effective skills will be candidates to play at the varsity level. They are forwards Marco Amorim and Joseph Craff.

KP’s style of play this season will feature an up-tempo brand. “We call it ‘possession with purpose,’ ” O’Neil said. “It’s all about controlling the ball with an intent to move it effectively.’’

The 53-year-old O’Neil rates Franklin as the deepest team in the Kelley-Rex Division. “They captured the division title last year, and they’re not only improved, but also well-coached and have plenty of tradition,’’ he said. “Milford is always prepared and competitive, and North Attleboro is a well-coached squad.’’

O’Neil’s coaching philosophy focuses on making sure his players reach their potential and enjoy their athletic journey. “And, if they’re competitive, then winning will be the by-product,’’ he emphasized. “There’s also life lessons that can be learned in athletics and it’s always a plus when our kids learn how to overcome adversity, develop character to pursue challenging goals, become leaders, acquire mental toughness and volunteer in their communities.’’

KP will open its season at home against Stoughton on Sept. 7, then visit Bishop Feehan on Sept. 9. The Warriors will stay on the road for their third match — a Sept. 12 encounter with rival Franklin that O’Neil has circled on his calendar.

Not only has O’Neil and his family lived in Franklin for 12 years, but his son Andrew is also a three-year veteran and a senior captain for the Panthers.

“If Franklin beats us, Andrew will be sleeping out in the shed,’’ O’Neil said jokingly.