The weather may not have felt very welcoming, but the hopes of another fine season for the A-D-M boys’ soccer team was very welcoming yesterday as the Tigers were back on the prowl with their second official day of practice for the 2018 season.

A-D-M enters yet another campaign under the continued tutelage of Bill Shields in his 30th season at the head coaching helm for the Tigers.

Shields will be wielding a roster of 59 athletes highlighted by 14 returning letter winners with a very deep and talented senior class. That senior class highlights a recent hallmark of Tiger boys soccer with veteran leadership in full force thanks to 10 returning seniors comprised of five everyday starters and of those five everyday starters, three are returning all-conference selections from last season.

That senior class most heavily benefits the Tiger offense especially with returning stars like Davis Barton and Eli Schwarzkopf whose 21 combined goals last season accounted for 50 percent of the team’s offense, not to mention 12 more goals courtesy of 12 combined assists.

While both Barton and Schwarzkopf will be looked upon for their physical talents, Shields said that their combined leadership will play an even bigger role this season.

“Their role(s) are going to be as the leaders of the squad,” Shields said. “They need to be the ones who dictate game situations, the way younger kids react to drills in practice, and the work ethic brought by the team every practice. I’m confident that these two and other seniors like Ethan Meyer and Herberto Ponce can make that happen.”

Despite the loss of first team all-state defender Matthew Oberreuter, Shields shared similar excitement about the defensive side of things for the Tigers which comes in part due to a talented group of youngsters.

“I’ve been impressed by the younger group,” Shields said. “Defensively you could argue that we’re fine. As for the younger athletes it’s from a defensive standpoint that I see them being the most helpful and adding the biggest contribution. From players who’ve established themselves last year to those who’ve established themselves from the beginning, I see the defense as looking pretty solid.”

Shields noted that he will look for a bulk of his underclassmen to play a big role in the team’s overall depth which includes the likes of sophomore standout Justin Annear who took part in 18 games last season playing solid defense while chipping in two goals, two assists, and six points offensively.

The Tigers will look to unofficially start their season with the annual preseason scrimmage against the Norwalk Warriors. As the Tigers work up to that date Shields commented on a few of the items he would like to see addressed from team which includes filling the void left by second team all-conference goalie Drew Gordon.

“We need to have goal keepers who are sure with their hands as well as their feet,” said Shields. We have to have defenders who can defend well, and we’ll need to work on maintaining possession of the ball.”

The annual scrimmage against Norwalk will take place on Tuesday, March 27 and will be the start of a long journey where the Tigers will be looking to enter the state tournament for the seventh time in eight years.