NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys soccer team came into last season armed and ready, getting off to a solid 5-0 start with four shutouts while outscoring the opposition by a whopping 21-1 margin. The ‘Hounds went 2-2-2 over the next six games, scoring 16 goals and allowing 10, showing that they were competitive with the rest of the league but not invincible.
The Greyhounds wound up the regular season 11-3-2 and fell in the Naugatuck Valley League semifinals to Torrington by a slim 1-0 count. The postseason was short-lived as Naugatuck edged Manchester, 1-0, before bowing out in the second round to Newington by a 4-0 final.
Six starters were lost to graduation but the five returning starters are looking to finish what they started last season. The Naugatuck tradition is as strong as ever for the Greyhounds and 19-year head coach Art Nunes, who sports a 280-48-20 mark in his career.
“We did graduate six starters so there are a lot of positions open,” Nunes said. “Preseason will provide good opportunities for last year’s underclassman. This is the time to show how much they’ve improved over the past season.”
Naugatuck will be led by a two-time captain, senior midfielder Adam Branco, and two junior captains in forward Ygor Silva and defender Tyler Saad. Both Branco and Silva earned All-NVL honors last year and Saad earned an All-Copper Division nod.
The three captains will help some of the underclassman adapt to the responsibility of the starting positions.
“The leadership of this team is in good hands as these three lead by example,” Nunes said. “Making their job easier is the fact that many of the players gained some valuable experience in backup roles last season.”
The Naugatuck defense recorded seven shutouts in its 11 wins last season and having junior Enzo Pereira back in the net will help to solidify that presence.
Seniors Fernando Branco, David DeOliveira and Josh Corbo add to that experience on defense. On the offensive side, junior midfielders and forwards Joe Martins, Dan Silva and Diago Cruz will be looked on to create opportunities for the ‘Hounds.
“The strength of this team is that we should be strong up the middle,” Nunes said. “Many of the younger players are eager to make their mark on the program. We go into each season trying to maintain the strong tradition at Naugatuck and compete for another NVL title and advance deep in the NVL and state tournaments.”
But there will be some stiff competition from defending champ Watertown, as the Indians went 14-0-1 in the NVL last year. Torrington and Holy Cross both went 11-3-1 while St. Paul (10-5), Wolcott (9-5) and Woodland (7-6-2) also will pose a threat for a league title.
“The teams that make the NVL and the states will certainly be battle-tested,” Nunes said. “Naugatuck, Watertown, Woodland, Torrington and Holy Cross all had large graduation losses from last year. The middle of the pack is returning most of their starters. It will be difficult to maintain the traditional standings of the past few years.”
Naugatuck will get the season underway Sept. 10 when it hosts Ansonia at Breen Field for a 6 p.m. contest. The neighboring rivalry game between Naugatuck and Woodland takes place Sept. 12 in Beacon Falls at 3:30 p.m.