NAUGATUCK — One of these years the NVL is going to get around to asking the Naugatuck boys soccer team to change its emblem from a Greyhound to a target on their back. After all, the Greyhounds have played for the NVL title 15 times in the last 18 years, and filled up the trophy case with 13 statues of greatness.
Naugatuck comes into the season poised to defend their back-to-back league titles. The ‘Hounds, who finished 20-1 in 2013 and 17-1-2 in 2014, also head into the season with a 32-game unbeaten streak in the NVL.
Over the past two seasons, head coach Art Nunes has added to an already impressive resume, guiding Naugy to a 37-2-2 record. Over that time, the ‘Hounds allowed just 25 goals and put it in the net a head-shaking 137 times.
“We go into every season trying to maintain the strong tradition of boys soccer at Naugatuck High School and compete for another NVL title,” said Nunes, who has compiled a 317-50-22 record in 21 years at the helm.
Nunes hasn’t done it alone.
“You don’t put together a program like this with that kind of success by yourself,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have assistant coaches Mingo Branco and Brian Mariano who are former players, like myself, to build a solid foundation.”
Naugatuck heads into the season needing to reload. The Greyhounds graduated 17 seniors, including nine starters.
“There are many open positions as well as back up roles to fill,” Nunes said. “Preseason will provide good opportunities for underclassman to show how much they have improved.”
Coach Nunes always seems to find the replacements to keep the ship afloat, but this year may be his most challenging. Nunes lost his starting goalie Enzo Pereira, who had 27 career shutouts, along with three-time All-NVL forward Ygor Silva and three-time All-Division defender Tyler Saad.
“We lost some key players but the leadership will be in the good hands of captains that lead by example,” Nunes said. “Our two returning starters will need to help some of the underclassmen adapt to the responsibility of the starting positions quickly.
“Making the job that much easier is the fact that many of these players gained some valuable experience in backup roles last season. The strength of the team should be in our defense.”
Naugatuck will be led by senior captains Andrew Carroll, Mike Campos and Filipe Dutra and junior Devon Curtis. The starting defensive front will be Carroll, Dutra (All Iron Division) and Curtis with Campos leading the midfielders.
Senior Rabbi Ahmed will start in goal, after getting plenty of action last season to hone his skills in between the pipes. Seniors Adam Antunes, Marco Mendes and Alex Ribeiro will be relied on to fill some of the starting roles.
Juniors Candido Carrelo, David Ruela, Pedro DeSousa, P.J. Morrissey and Gabriel will be looking to take on bigger roles this season after gaining experience last year.
Sophomores Yan Silva, Aren Seeger, Matt Carroll and Christian Jacobi are eager to show they are more than ready to play key roles in an already improving Naugatuck lineup.
As the Greyhounds look to make it three NVL titles in a row, Nunes knows it won’t be an easy task.
“The competition for the three divisions should provide for an interesting scramble for postseason berths,” Nunes added. “The league will be a lot more competitive as Naugatuck, Torrington, St. Paul, Seymour and Holy Cross got hit hard by graduation. Getting into the NVL tournament will be much more difficult. But that will make all teams battle-tested when the state tournament comes around.”
Naugatuck is scheduled to open the season on Sept. 11 at home versus Woodland at 3:30 p.m. The following week the ‘Hounds are at Watertown Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. and host Kennedy Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.