Looking at high school varsity rosters, it’s uncommon to see many underclassmen on the list, let alone contributing valuable minutes while being instant producers to the team’s success.
Things have changed.
Holding a two-week tryout period in summer, Saugus boys soccer head coach Seth Groller was able to see the development in four players early on.
“This past summer we were able to see some of the underclassmen coming up and working well with not just the other freshman, but some of the older players,” Groller said. “Even the seniors were able to recognize their skills, movement on the field and decision making. There were some of the younger players that sort of rose to that level and not only were able to compete with the varsity players, but also make the varsity players better.”
Saugus boys soccer features two sophomores: Brady Muehlberger and Roger Sandino, along with two freshmen: Connor Claborn and Alec Fryer, all of whom play as midfielders with Sandino being the lone defender.
Claborn and Fryer are the immediate standouts of the group as the two sit in fourth and fifth place on the team in scoring, respectively, with three and two goals and are tied for fifth in total points with six.
“I have good spatial awareness so I know where to be and I know how to get myself open so my teammates can pass to me,” Claborn said. “The defenders always have to be looking and ready to see where I’m going to be.”
“They are both very smart players where they put themselves in the right spots and have quality shots, but it’s more about their knowledge and soccer IQ,” Groller said. “They have a knack for scoring, but again I think it’s more of their work off the ball that gives them the advantage.”
The elder statesmen of the group, sophomores Muehlberger and Sandino, bring a tenacious and cohesive effort and encompassed that in their first full year of playing at the varsity level.
“Brady did not play in the program last year because he played on an academy team,” Groller said. “But he has done a solid job for us as a defensive center mid. Roger plays right back for us and his intensity and ability to read the game gives him the advantage. It’s interesting because he’s not that tall, but yet every time he goes up for a ball he wins almost every ball he goes after.
“Having these underclassmen not just on the team but having a productive role, it pushes the other players to really work hard. We look at this as what we are building the program around.”
Sitting in fourth place in Foothill League standings at 2-2-1 with an overall record of 8-5-3, Saugus has a virtual must-win matchup against first-place Valencia at Valencia High School at 6:30 p.m. later today.
The Centurions know they can count on their underclassmen corps to play hard.
“I think it’s amazing how Connor, Roger, Brady and myself have known each other through playing against each other and even playing with each other and to come together on one team, it amazes me how much chemistry we can have,” Fryer said.