(Sept. 6, 2019) Jon Adkins joined the Worcester Prep boys’ soccer team as an assistant to Head Coach Terry Underkoffler last year.
When Underkoffler decided to retire after seven seasons leading the squad, Adkins was happy to take over the program.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m ready to get rolling,” he said.
Adkins was familiar with the players even before he came to Worcester. He was head coach of the Holly Grove boys’ soccer team for four years, which Worcester plays at least twice a season.
The two teams met 11 times while he was coach of the Holly Grove squad.
Since he already knew the Mallards it made the transition from assistant to head coach of the Prep team smooth for everyone.
“Terry and I had a good relationship when we coached against each other. When I came in, the plan was for me to take over the program,” he said. “I learned a lot from Terry. He has over 500 career wins. Terry knows everything. He still helps me a lot. I still bounce things off him.”
Adkins has 25 players on his roster, 10 of whom were on the team last year which finished with a 12-2-2 record. The Mallards also captured the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference championship.
“We’re very senior heavy. The seniors have been waiting for their opportunity and they’re ready,” Adkins said. “Our senior leadership is strong.”
Leading the team will be senior captains Alec Burbage (forward), Ryan Cronin (center midfield) and Gavin Carmody (forward). All three have been on the team since they were freshmen.
Returner, Max Taylor, a senior, will join Burbage and Carmody on the forward line along with senior JP Issel and freshman Pearson Schul, who are both new to the team.
Freshman Logan Ginnavan is new to the team and will play in the midfield.
Adkins said the team is strongest on defense, with five core players in the back.
Sophomore Michael Wehberg started on defense last year and will play center back this season. He earned All-Conference honors for his performance during the 2018 season.
Seniors Max Huber and Noah Hudson will also play in the back in addition to sophomore Brice Richins. Freshman Austin Gentry is new to the team and will join them on defense.
The team also has two new goalies this year – freshman Jack Gardner and senior Spencer Paquette.
The forward and midfield lines are solid as well, with senior veterans leading the charge.
“We’ll lean on our defense to start the season until the offense can get going,” Adkins said. “I think we have multiple people who can score this year.”
Last year the team relied on Vincent Petrera for goal scoring. He finished the season with 39 goals and was named ESIAC Player of the Year.
Petrera transferred to McDonogh High School this year. The team also graduated 10 players who were major contributors and a few other boys are playing different sports this fall.
“Last year we had one kid who scored, this year we’ll have more balanced scoring,” Adkins said.
“People don’t think we’re going to be good this year, but we want to prove them wrong,” Burbage added. “We lost basically all of our starters and our best player went to a different school.
“Last year was more of passing to one kid and him doing everything…I feel like it’s a whole different game now,” he continued. “Instead of just giving it to one person and him doing everything, everyone’s working together.”
Adkins said the coaching staff and players want to carry on the Worcester winning tradition.
“We’re coming along faster than I thought we would. A lot of people are stepping up,” he said. “They’re a great group of boys. We still have some work to do, but I’m happy with where they’re at. They know it’s going to take the whole team this year.”
In addition, Adkins said the boys get along well and have bonded since day one.
“It’s been great. Team practices have been fun,” he said.
They have also bought into the new system and formation – three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards – which was incorporated at the end of last season.
Adkins is also focusing on conditioning this year.
“We might not be the most talented, but we’ll be the most conditioned team,” he said. “They worked hard over the summer and they came [into preseason] in shape.”
“We’ve hustled a lot and conditioned a lot, which goes to show how much we want to win,” Carmody added.
Burbage said many of the players got together over the summer and played, which has been beneficial at the start of the season as players got to know each other better.
The team would like to win the ESIAC championship again. Adkins also wants the players to improve every practice and every game.
“At the end of the season hopefully we’ll be playing our best soccer,” he said.
To be successful this season, Cronin said it will take “communication, talking, connecting our passes, obviously scoring, and coming together as team.”
“We’re looking to work hard and train as hard as we can and we’re going to do our best,” he said.
“And to build almost like a brothership, that will help us also,” Carmody added.
The first game of the season is Monday, Sept. 9, against the Salisbury Christian Jaguars at 4 p.m. in Berlin.