By BOB YORK —
Let’s just call him a blast from the past.
Tom Heise returned to some very familiar landscape this fall: patrolling the sidelines for the Big Green boys varsity soccer team. Heise, who spent the past seven years coaching the Deerfield JV program, tutored the varsity for 11 years, from 1993 to 2004 and during that time, took them to six tournament berths and to one Western New England Prep School Soccer Association title, that coming in 1995.
“It seemed good to get back into the swing of things on the varsity level,” said Heise, who filled in for Jan Flaska, who is spending the year on hiatus at the University of Chicago. Unfortunately, it took a little time before everyone really got into the swing of things.
The Big Green went 0-4 in September, but bounced back for a 5-3-1 mark in October and then finished with a 2-1 showing in November. “We got off to a slow start this season,” said Heise, “but I’m really proud of the way the kids bounced back. In fact, I think if we could have come up with another win or two, I think we could have made the tournament.”
Deerfield Academy’s final overall record read 7-8-1 following an 0-4 start, and 6-6-1 in league play, “and we finished 13th out of a field of 57 teams,” said Heise. “This is a very highly competitive league, so that says a lot about the way the kids were able to battle back.”
During those first four games, Deerfield went up against some of the league’s best, falling to a future No. 2 seed Worcester Academy, 5-1, and a Kent School squad, 4-3, that would eventually earn a fourth seed in tourney play. The other two early setbacks came at the hands of Suffield, 2-0, and Taft, 3-0.
“Following that loss to Kent on September 29, we started October off with three wins and a tie and went 7-4-1 the rest of the way,” said Heise. And one of those victories proved to be a 3-2 decision over Hotchkiss, which would later earn fifth seed in tourney play. Other tourney-bound teams Deerfield hung tough with during regular season play were No. 3 Exeter, which edged the Big Green, 1-0, sixth-seeded Loomis, meanwhile, prevailed, 2-1. Deerfield earned a 2-1 win over seventh-seed Andover, while eighth-seed Choate rang up a 1-0 victory.
As is the case with most early season slumps, the losing team scores less goals than it allows, and such was the case with Deerfield. It was shut out twice during the early going, while being outscored by a 14-4 margin. Ironically, the Big Green would allow just 28 goals all season long, meaning after allowing 14 goals in its first four games, it would allow only another 14 through the remaining 12 games of the schedule. Offensively, it would produce 20 goals over those last dozen games.
“We were in every game we played this season,” said Heise, and one of the biggest reasons that Heise could make that statement was his goaltender Andrew Shedlac (13), as “he put on one of the finest goaltending performances this season that I’ve ever seen.” Even after allowing 14 goals in his first four games, the postgraduate from Winchester, Mass., settled down and finished with a 1.87 goals against average. In order to accomplish that feat, Shedlac allowed one goal or less (three shutouts) in nine of his final 12 games and earned All-New England laurels for his efforts.
“After those first four games, I think we started to jell,” said Shedlac, who posted a 30-2-4 record during two years of goaltending at Winchester High School and is looking to play Division III soccer in college next year. “Our ability to bounce back from that slow start is a real credit to the entire team. This was a group of guys who were outstanding athletes and although soccer isn’t the No. 1 sport for many of them, they never stopped working … they never gave up. And it paid off … we came within a win or two from making the playoffs.”
Up front, Jackson Dayton (13), who shared this year’s Holbrook-Ellis Cup as the team’s Most Valuable Player Award with Shedlac, led the offensive charge, as he produced 15 points on 12 goals and three assists and was later named to All-New England squad as well as the All-League team. Dan Blohm (13) was the club’s second leading scorer, with six goals and seven assists for 13 points, while Steve Baisch (14) earned All-New England and All-League status after a season that saw him finish third in scoring with nine points on three goals and six assists. Luke Walsh (13) meanwhile, had quite a season for himself on the scoring charts as well. Although he tallied just four goals on the season, three of them ended up being game winners in a 2-1 win over Northfield Mount Hermon, a 3-2 victory over Hotchkiss and 1-0 win over Avon.
Other key contributors this fall were midfielders Conner Romeyn (13) and Zz Salvador (14) while Adam Phille (13) and Cole Horton (14) stood out on defense.
Baisch, Horton and Salvador will be next year’s tri-captains.