DORSET - Coming into the 2013 season, Long Trail School boys soccer coach Tim Smith may have a bit of a challenge before him.

The team is in somewhat of a rebuilding mode this year after losing six of last year's starters. While there are 12 players from last year returning, there are also some new faces on this year's 19-player roster. Still, Smith isn't worried.

"We'll be competitive," Smith said. "We've got a couple good foreign exchange students coming in this year and we have a returning goalkeeper (Mark Edmunds), which we got halfway through last year. So, I think our defense will be pretty young, but we'll be solid."

Javier Bartolome, who is from Spain, will patrol the midfield for the Lynx and senior Abdul Samaila - who's from Ghana - will play forward.

When the season begins on Sept. 4, Smith expects both of them to play a significant role in the offense.

"The kid from Ghana, Abdul, there isn't anybody who's going to keep up with him in terms of speed and he's in top shape and he's a strong kid," said Smith. "Certainly at our level of soccer in Division IV you're going to probably contain him, but you're certainly not going to control him. As far as the kid from Spain, Javier, he's good with the ball. He's a pretty smart kid and he knows how to distribute the ball and he also knows how to take people on. It's just sort of getting him in the role of when to take them on, not so much in the midfield, but in the attacking third."

Smith said challenging an opponent in the midfield can lead to a turnover and a quick counter, which is something he is looking to avoid as much as possible this year given the inexperience in the backfield where the Lynx will start two freshmen - Evan Crumb at stopper and Liam Sheldon at sweeper.

Despite the lack of experience in the backfield, Smith said the most athletic students on the team are on defense which includes, Sheldon and Crumb, freshman Cooper Weir, sophomores Nicky Mihailovic, Paul Vincelette, Paul Vincelette and Wenhao Xu, junior Brian Gourlay and senior Ryker Kozal.

One area that Smith said he is currently trying to address is the midfield, which he indicated could present a challenge this year.

"I like to attack on the wings and that requires a lot of fitness and a lot of manpower and when you don't have huge numbers you kind of have to plug the leaks from time to time and we're trying to figure out a rotation in the midfield for that," Smith said. "I think we'll be pretty solid up front, but getting the ball there is going to be a work in progress."

Like the backfield, the majority of the midfielders are young with sophomores Bartolome, Walker May, Andrew Trombetta, Chris Trombetta, and Rocky Ye with Lars Lund being the only senior among the group.

In addition to Samaila, junior Henry Mears will start up front and senior Collin Campagne and freshmen Patrick Staples will see some playing time behind them.

So far in practice, Smith said the team has not been working on tactics, but rather on the technical aspects of the game such as roles of positioning. However, he said the team has been working on how to play the ball out wide and how to attack on the wings among other things.

"It's just getting young kids familiar with the size of a high school game and a high school field. You know that's a big deal. Division IV schools don't have JV programs to sort of get kids mature for the varsity level. These kids get thrown into the fire right away, especially if you have some talent."

Even for young, talented players, Smith said it's a pretty significant adjustment playing at the varsity level as opposed to competing against players at the middle school level.

Smith said it is possible that they might bring some people up from the eighth grade team this year, but that it would depend on how the season progressed.

"That's always an interesting scenario because you don't want to bring up somebody who's not physically able to handle it nor mentally able to handle it and just rushing them in probably isn't the best idea, but some kids can handle it," said Smith. "I have one in mind, but we'll see what happens."

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