By Matt Langone
As the smallest school in the Merrimack Valley Conference, Dracut High School is always fighting the numbers game.
The talent pool just isn't as deep, and participation totals simply aren't as high as they are at other schools in the league. That tends to be particularly challenging in soccer, where 11 players are on the field at once.
But this fall, the only number that has mattered for the Dracut boys and girls soccer teams is 0. That's how many losses each of the teams had at the midway point of the season.
The Middies boys were sitting at 6-0-2 halfway through their season, while the girls were 7-0-1.
"We have six seniors -- four were starters last year -- and we got a good-size junior class," boys coach Ryan Keefe said. "We're pretty well-balanced. I think that's our biggest strength. We're very organized as a team. We expected this. It's the kind of year where we thought we could make a jump."
Girls coach Dennis Goodine and his squad feel the same way about their team. They recently defeated perennial MVC and state power Central Catholic for the first time in at least 20 years.
"That really meant a lot," said Goodine, in his 11th season at the helm. "The girls looked at it like winning the Super Bowl. The seniors are really driving our success because a lot of them have been together since the youth program. They came up through the system."
Sophomore Leah Durkin and junior Allison Martin were tied for the team lead in goals with 6 each.
The defense has been stellar as well, with 4 shutouts.
That type of success is remarkable considering the uphill climb Dracut faces every year.
"I'd love to say we're having a revival right now, but one of the big challenges we run into is that my JV team, about 50 percent of it, is made up of seventh- and eighth-graders," Goodine said. "We're unable to successfully field a JV team. That's the same thing with a lot of our programs. Right now, we only have about 900 students in the school, so it challenges us to be able to successfully pull players."
One silver lining within the numbers' struggle is that players often get a taste of varsity action early on, allowing them to acclimate to the speed and talent level.
That has certainly benefited Dracut senior captain Matthew Robichaud and his fellow upperclassmen. Robichaud was there to witness the Middies get through some tough times, including a three-win campaign when he was a freshman.
"Losing definitely hurt at the time," said Robichaud, a defensive midfielder. "One of the key moments that year was when one of the senior captains had a fit at halftime, crying because we were losing and saying nobody cares. It didn't relay a good message to us. I think us seniors this year are working harder to set a good example. It sets a good foundation for Dracut soccer in the future."
Both Keefe and Robichaud commended the conditioning of the team. Robichaud said the players made that a priority during the summer. Of course, being well-conditioned is a solid way to combat depth issues. The Dracut boys have just 36 kids in the entire program.
Junior Brendan Davis was leading the Middies' balanced offensive attack with 6 goals and 4 assists. Like the girls team, the boys had 4 shutouts.
"I think we have a very good chance to make some noise in the state tournament," Keefe said. "We've moved to Division 3, which helps."
Before they get there, the Davids of the MVC will try to keep knocking down the Goliaths.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.