BY ED WRIGHT
Aug. 17, 2010, 12:15 p.m.
Within a five-minute span during Monday's Salem boys soccer practice, sophomore goalie Erick Beas made a pair of diving, leaping saves that would have made his predecessor proud.
Beas will be taking over for two-time All-State goal-keeper Sasa Miskovic, whose brilliant play and strong leadership qualities led the Rocks to a berth in the Division 1 semifinals last year.
"Erick has some big shoes to fill with Sasa's vacancy," said Salem coach Ed McCarthy. "Fortunately, we have a very mature back line in front of him which he will need to get accustomed to the varsity level. Long term, He'll be an excellent goal-keeper. How good he'll be as a sophomore only time will tell."
McCarthy ranked last season's squad - which finished with a No. 4 Division 1 state ranking following a 1-0 loss to Holt in a state semifinal - among the best he's ever coached.
"That team had every opportunity to be state champions," said McCarthy. "We had all of the pieces of the puzzle: outstanding goal-keeping, great defending, good forward play and good mid-fielders. There were no weaknesses. That team was among the best in the history of Salem soccer, for sure."
The strength of this year's Salem contingent is no different than in several previous seasons: defense.
"We're returning our two center backs from last year, so with Jake Genrich and Tommy Halewicz back there, we should be able to defend well," said McCarthy. "Brandon Barfuss is back, too, after a good season last year. Jake, Tommy and Brandon are three critical players for us this year.
"When you throw in Dan Martin and Dan Adsit in the mid-field, it gives us some depth. We have a very small senior class this season - we only have six seniors. That happens about once every 10 years."
The Rocks' back wall is solid with Halewicz, Genrich and left back Chris Ensor in position to make Beas' job less stressful.
"Chris is a left-footer who does a great job back there," said McCarthy. "Jake played on the flank last year, but he'll move to the middle this year and Tommy is very solid back there. Brandon Barfuss will move to the mid-field where he'll join Dan Martin and Dan Adsit.
"Up top we have two guys who played on the junior varsity last year - Chris Dierker and Jake Pascarella. They'll have to get it done for us at that end of the field."
McCarthy said the team's success will hinge on the play of his four top performers.
"Certainly Dan Martin will be critical for us; he's our No. 1 mid-fielder," McCarthy said. "Brandon Barfuss in the mid-field and our two center backs will be very crucial to us, too. Those are the four most defensive and most central players for us. They'll need to carry the load."
The biggest concern McCarthy noted was whether or not his relatively young unit can overcome its lack of experience.
"Overall, our biggest question mark is probably at goal-keeper, simply because we had a first-team All-State keeper the last two years who has left a void," said McCarthy. "We're bringing in a talented keeper, but one who has no varsity experience.
"Another question is: Are we 11 players deep or 12 players deep? We know we have four, five or six solid players, but we need at least 10 guys to step up if we want to have a really good year."
The Rocks open play Saturday at the Gary Balconi Invitational which will be played on the PCEP campus.
The complete Balconi schedule will be posted on PlymouthCantonSports.com soon.
Ed Wright can be
reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.
Rocks run sprints toward the end of Monday's practice. (Ed Wright