Bull’s-eye’s on Tolman’s back

Bull’s-eye’s on Tolman’s back

Tolman senior midfielder Juan Barrios earned First-Team All-State honors last season after netting 10 goals and five assists and helping the Tigers claim their program’s first state championship. Barrios and his teammates, who entered the week with an 0-2 record and were scheduled to visit Classical on Tuesday night, will host La Salle in their home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. at the McKinnon-Alves Soccer Complex. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Boys’ soccer team goes from hunter to hunted in R.I. after capturing D-I title last year

PAWTUCKET – A year after producing the greatest season in their program’s history, one which resulted in a 14-0-4 record and their first state championship, the players and coaches on the Tolman High boys’ soccer team are doing their best to put the past behind them and focus on the present.

The Tigers graduated nine players from last year’s squad, including two of their top defensive players and the Division I’s leading scorer, Luis Blanco, who is currently playing for D-II Franklin Pierce University, but gave the Tigers the edge they needed last year.

“Last year was a dream season,” Tolman head coach Dan Silva said. “They exceeded all expectations. It still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It will be a year to remember for the rest of my life.”

Now it’s time to turn the page, and the Tigers are doing so with seven returning starters, six of them seniors and half of them All-State midfielders. On the First Team were the Barrios brothers, Juan and Roy – Juan netted 10 goals and five assists last year and Roy added nine goals and 10 assists – and on the Second Team was Tiago DaCosta.

“Our offense is talented, returning Juan and Roy, two elite players in the state,” Silva said. “They’ve been great all offseason.”

A new addition to the team, but in no way new to soccer, is Blackstone Valley Prep transfer Patrick Pires, who was a standout for the Pride last year. The senior does have to sit out half the season to fulfill his transfer requirements.

While last year’s team had veterans, experience, and depth throughout its lineup, Silva said this season’s squad is much younger, less experienced, and lacking the depth it had last season.

“Last year, the team was hungry and wanted it more,” Silva said. “I don’t know about this year yet, but we are in a good spot.”

Two returning players that Silva hopes will make a difference are juniors Aliou Sissoko, who scored the game-winning goal with six seconds left in regulation in the Tigers’ 1-0 win over La Salle in the state finals, and David Torres.

Silva said that Sissoko and Torres will be the key guys in the middle of the field this year, and he said they are both talented and hopes they can step up even more.

Junior Nelton Semedo is supposed to return in goal at some point this year, but he had meniscus surgery on his knee over the summer and will start practicing this week. The backup, who is starting at the moment, is Colombia native Santiago Rocha.

Rocha, a junior, made 14 saves in the Tigers’ season opener last Wednesday night against North Kingstown at Narragansett High’s field, but the Skippers were able to come away with a 2-1 victory.

Three nights later, the Tigers suffered another loss on the road, this time falling to Portsmouth, 3-0.

With last year still fresh in many minds, Silva said his team definitely has a target on its back. He highlighted La Salle as the top team to watch out for, and he added North Kingstown and Central Falls to his list of “teams to beat” in the league.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Silva said. “We want to try to get ourselves in a situation to play in a game that means something at the end of the season.”

Silva said that he is hoping for a good season and his players to stay healthy, as well as seeing if his younger guys can step up and do whatever it takes to win.

On Tuesday night, the Tigers visited Classical, and on Friday at 7 p.m., they will host La Salle in the home opener at the McKinnon-Alves Soccer Complex.