Charlie DeBlasio made a significant jump last year in his first year on the Ewing High School boys’ soccer team.
The EHS sophomore is ready to use that full season of experience and be a bigger part of helping the Blue Devils compete in the Colonial Valley Conference.
“I definitely expect to be better this year, more effective,” said DeBlasio, who plays midfield. “I was smaller and weaker last year. A year’s difference in high school, it shows. I’m a lot stronger. I’m stronger and I’ve learned a lot of the game that I might not have known about.”
DeBlasio is part of a mix of ages of players that will be making up for the lost leadership graduated from last year’s Ewing team that went 3-12-2.
“We only lost seven, but we did lose some key players that are going to be really hard to replace,” said Ewing third-year head coach Dave Waseleski. “Any time you’re losing Alex Jesseman, a really good midfielder, and Matt Robbins, a key defender, and Kam Clarke, our goalie, it’s tough. We’re looking for somebody to step up.”
Ewing has a pool of players to select from that includes: Thomas Bayley, Evan Birchenough, Cadel Bolden, William Bolmer, Anthony Cruz, Tommy Davaadolgor, DeBlasio, Daniel DeLeon, Braydon Dwyer, Javier Evans, David Fallah, Jordan Forsythe, Drew Green, Andrew Hein, Michael Ilesanmi, Evan Jurczynski, Chris Krah, Kyle Marks, Alexander Medwick, Jahmario Morris, Dylan Navaro, Alan Ordonez, Daniel Ordonez, Sancio Ramos, Michael Riehl, Steven Rodriguez, Cameron Ruch, Jordy Santiago-Caraballo, Scott Silgay, Louis Stout, Jake Thogode, Thomas Vellenga, Justin Wood and Aaron Zaggi.
Waseleski is looking for leadership from all ages and positions. DeBlasio is a possible leader in the midfield with the loss of Jesseman.
“We definitely have leaders in the sophomore class,” DeBlasio said. “It’s a really close group with my class. The senior class is pretty big. I think the leadership will only continue to get stronger as the season progresses. We’re looking for someone to fill that role right now.
“I feel like anyone can do that if they try. Even if it’s not in the biggest way, even little things, it’s something anyone can do. I’m hopeful we’ll have a lot of people stepping up to fill roles, but it’s something I take upon myself to do.”
He’s not alone in the midfield. The Blue Devils return another strong player there in Wood, a junior, who started in the back on defense last year before moving up into the midfield due to injuries.
“I would say comparing to others, we’re probably more young,” Wood said. “I don’t think it’ll be too much of a burden. Everyone is working hard and has been working hard over the summer. As long as we can do that on the field, we’ll be fine.”
The Blue Devils need their most experienced and talented players to take the lead and set the example for how to play. They have seen how to set the tone from past leaders.
“We’re very, very lucky we have some young guys in the midfield, but they were able to learn a lot from the previous seniors,” Waseleski said. “I’m hoping they’ll fill that role seamlessly. We’ll need them to step up significantly.”
Having two years of experience is a big plus for Wood. He knows what the less experienced players are going through as they adjust.
“Definitely with the younger kids, coming to play at the varsity level is a big step,” Wood said. “You’re playing at the older level, you have to learn how to move the ball and try and make opportunities.”
Wood and DeBlasio are players that Ewing is hoping can create scoring opportunities for the Blue Devils. Ewing struggled to score goals last year. In the summer, Ewing spent one day per week just on shooting and finishing scoring chances.
“A lot of the guys have been working outside of team practices,” DeBlasio said. “I can see the improvement. Some shots that were off target last year are on target. We’re finishing a lot better than last year. Hopefully the same thing will happen in the regular season.”
Ewing saw last year what happened without scoring. The Blue Devils were continually on their heels. They are focusing on reducing opponents’ possessions and chances.
“I would say from being a defender, keeping the ball is a key,” Wood said. “When I was defending, we were under constant pressure. We’d have to work off the counter attack. I’m hoping we can possess the ball and build off the back.”
The returning players and newcomers are working at communicating better to stay a step ahead of their opponents. They are finding in what positions they can help the team best.
“We definitely have a solid core group of kids,” DeBlasio said. “A lot of these people have soccer experience outside of just school soccer and that helps. We’re all good friends so the chemistry is there. From day one of summer practices, I was excited about it.”
DeBlasio plays club soccer for Next Level Soccer Academy. Wood plays for Princeton Soccer Association.
“Keeping my touch up is a big part of coming into the school season,” Wood said. “You have to be ready.”
Playing year-round at a challenging level has them prepared for another year of varsity. They are ready to take another step as bigger parts of the team on and off the field.
“I’ll be trying to make an impact on the game and getting our guys to play with a certain tempo,” DeBlasio said. “Last year play was chaotic at times. I’m looking to slow it down and make it easier on them and myself.
“What I’m looking for this year is guys that had success as underclassmen stepping up to be leaders and challenge the upperclassmen and still be hungry for a varsity position,” Waseleski said. He can see another challenging schedule of CVC teams. Ewing is motivated to surprise them.
Ewing opens the season Sept. 6 by hosting Hamilton West, and has some events in the works that will highlight the year. The Blue Devils are in the midst of organizing a Special Olympics event, and they are trying to work out a Trenton Cup challenge at The College of New Jersey against Trenton High. Ewing also will hold the second annual Alumni Day for its former players. They’re hoping to raise some excitement for the program and some wins.
“My whole outlook on the season is can we be competitive?” Waseleski said. “That’s truly what I want to see: Be competitive, don’t give up, be in every game. Last year was challenging because we didn’t score. Hopefully this year we’re on the other end and a couple of those go in and we’re playing up instead of playing for a draw.”