The Lunenburg High boys’ soccer team won five games last season and only claimed one point while going 0-7-1 in Mid-Wach D, a league that saw it’s other four members qualify for postseason play.
And the league displayed its might and mettle in the Central Mass. Division 4 Tournament with eventual state champion Bromfield beating Littleton, 1-0, in the final after knocking out Clinton by the same score in the quarterfinals, while Littleton snuck by Maynard on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
“Last year was tough because if you look at the league we played in — and that’s the league I prefer to play in because it’s so competitive — we just had a brutal schedule,” fourth-year coach Andy Christensen said. “While outside of our league we won or were close in every game (going 5-5).”
The Blue Knights, like every team in Central Mass., are playing in a geographic pod rather than a league this fall. They’ve been grouped with Groton-Dunstable, Littleton, North Middlesex, Parker Charter, and Tyngsboro, so a good mix of perennial pitch powers and solid clubs.
And so far, so good as Lunenburg took a 2-1 record into Thursday’s home match against North Middlesex on Senior Day.
After opening with a competitive, 5-2 loss to Groton-Dunstable, which finished atop Mid-Wach B last year, the Blue Knights rebounded with a 7-0 shutout of Parker and a 5-1 win over Tyngsboro, which topped the Mid-Wach C table last year.
Lunenburg has benefited from another year of experience along with the safety modifications implemented due to COVID-19 that have eliminated physicality and contact from the sport.
“The COVID (modifications) actually play to our advantage because we have speed and we have skill, although we’re on the small side,” Christensen said.
The Blue Knights have been led in the early going by its six seniors: identical twins Jake and Sam Friend, Michael Gardner, Peter Hennessy, Sean Tuttle — all of whom are captains and four-year varsity players — and Sean Ryan.
While Christensen admitted he hasn’t been “great with words” this season, he let his veterans know he liked what he saw after the Blue Knights overcame a one-goal deficit to upend Tyngsboro on Wednesday.
“I told them, ‘You guys are really beginning to put everything together and the leadership that is beginning to occur, the team play — the win tonight was a total team effort — is through all of your hard work the last few years,’ ” Christensen said. “So they get it, and they learned to be resilient.”
Jake Friend, a striker who check in at about 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds and excels in one-on-one matchups, had three goals and three assists, one of which set up his brother for his first high school strike against Parker, and two goals and an assist against Tyngsboro.
Sam, a central defensive midfielder and two-year captain, scored his first high school goal off a feed from his brother against Parker.
“They’re really good kids; really strong students,” Christensen said.
Ryan has also netted his first varsity goal, against Tyngsboro.
As for the underclassmen, sophomore Griffin Galozzo, a two-year starter in goal, is, well, a keeper thanks to his athleticism and attitude.
“He’s a lacrosse goalie and a skateboarder,” Christensen said. “I always tell people that I like my goalkeepers a little off-kilter. One of the best goalkeepers we’ve had was this kid, John Lahti (a 2013 graduate).
“He was a downhill skier and he would just throw himself downhill and when we put him in goal he was amazing because he had no fear. And I think Griffin is kind of the same way, so it’s fun to watch.”
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