There’ll be a new man leading the charge on the Rutland boys soccer sidelines this fall.
Ben Black takes over for Ron Henderson to lead the Raiders, who finished last season 4-11.
Black comes with plenty of coaching experience. After playing soccer in high school and college, he got into coaching, but fell from it a bit when he went to law school.
After he completed his schooling, he picked it up again, and for the last five years, he’s been an assistant coach on the Otter Valley staff.
When the Rutland job came open, he felt it was a perfect fit.
“It’s a community that I really like,” Black said. “I knew some of the kids from club soccer. It was a Division I job and the chance to compete against some of the best.”
Black takes over a Raiders bunch looking to bounce back. Before last year’s losing record, Rutland had a winning record in the three years previous.
Black likes the competitiveness he’s seen in early practices.
“There’s a lot of quality in this group. The kids have worked really hard,” Black said. “It’s a positive group and they really want to compete.”
Rutland has nine seniors this season, so it’s hoping that experience pays dividends.
Black noted how a lot of his players are versatile. Guys like Joe Giancola and Braeden Carleton are capable of playing in attacking or defensive roles.
Reed Martin, Carter Stearns, Ben Spiro, Oliver Hamilton and Michael O’Connor will play critical offensive roles as well.
Jaden Kelley returns in goal for Rutland and Black noted how his team will rely on his experience to aid them defensively.
The Raiders have come together quickly in early practices. Black credits the culture Henderson created before him for how tight-knit the group is.
“Ron focused on the group mentality and for guys to not think about themselves, but as a group. It’s a welcoming, competitive group,” Black said.
The Rutland girls are in a similar spot, looking to take a step forward this season.
The Raiders return 12 girls from last year’s squad. Rutland coach Lori McClallen said they haven’t picked the final varsity roster just yet, but they had about 60 girls coming to try out.
“There are a lot good athletes. They’re strong players,” McClallen said.
Offensively, Kendra Sabotka and Camryn Kinsman return and should be critical pieces up top.
“They both have great speed,” McClallen said.
Justine Peters anchors the Rutland defense in front of returning goalkeeper Kathryn Moore.
Izzy Crossman, a midfielder, and Sydney Wood, a forward, come with experience as well.
“We a have a great core group of juniors and seniors,” McClallen said.
With masks mandatory during games, the Raiders, and every other team across the state, have had to adjust.
“The kids have been great about it. They’ve settled into the routine,” McClallen said. “When you get into games, it will be another adjustment.”
Having strong numbers could be essential this season.
“Our bench will be deeper, skill-wise and numbers-wise,” McClallen said.
This season will be unlike any other, so the Raiders are taking a measured approach.
“We’re taking it week by week,” McClallen said. “If the first week has been any indication, we could definitely get stronger as the season goes on.”