DRACUT — 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 just aren’t as high as they are at other schools in the league. This 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 has at the midway point of the season.
The Middies boys are sitting at 6-0-2, while the girls are 7-0-1.
“We have six seniors — four were starters last year — and we got a good-size junior class. We’re pretty well balanced, I think that’s our biggest strength. We’re very organized as a team,” said boys coach Ryan Keefe. “We expected this. It’s the kind of year where we thought we could make a jump.”
Head coach Dennis Goodine and his girls 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. The girls looked at it like winning the Super Bowl,” said Goodine, in his 11th season at the helm. “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 are tied for the team-lead in goals with six each. They have done an outstanding job filling the void left when last year’s leading scorer, senior Julia Tellier, tore her ACL during the preseason.
The defense has been stellar as well with four shutouts.
This 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,” said Goodine. “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 has led the Middies’ balanced offensive attack with six goals and four assists. Like the girls team, the boys have four shutouts.
“I think we have a very good chance to make some noise in the state tournament,” said Keefe. “We’ve moved to Division 3, which helps.”
Before they get there, the David of the MVC will try to keep knocking down the Goliaths.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone