By Kevin Eickman
With most athletic programs success is often measured in increments and over the last few years Milford soccer has been steadily improving. In a year that took so many twists and turns, the Bucs where forced to overcome injury and adversity in order to secure a coveted State tournament bid. After falling to Sussex Central on the next to last game of the season, the Buccaneers traveled to Woodbridge needing a victory to secure the final tournament birth. Milford responded with a rousing 5-0 win “The team did very well, in a big game,” said Coach Ken Outten. “We overcame so much just to have a chance to be in that position, and we played a great game.”
The win gave Milford an 8-5-2 regular season record and the tournament birth that was a major goal at the start of the season. In the first round of the State Tournament Milford faced top seeded, two time defending State Champions Salesianum and lost by a final of 6-0. While it is easy to take a look at the score and think it a poor result, Coach Outten was thrilled with how the team responded after falling behind early in the contest. “While nobody wants to lose by a score like that, the fact that we battled and played well in the second half of the game was very impressive,” commented Outten. “There is no way you can be ready when you play a team as skilled as that for the first time but once we got our footing we did better.”
Looking back on the season, Outten was happy with the overall accomplishments of the team “Our goal from the beginning was to make the tournament, that was a big step for us,” he added, “With what this team battled through this season it was quite an accomplishment.” It was a year that forced players to step up, dig a little deeper and try a little harder. That is exactly what they did in a season where they could never seem to get a completely healthy lineup on the field “We had a great many obstacles this season, but the guys never gave up,” commented Outten.
Coach Outten was very happy with how hard the whole team worked and offered some praise for a few players that looked to put in the extra effort to improve their game. Sophomore Brandon Perez developed into a serviceable halfback with a big upside thanks to his hard work. “Brandon played up in the Kirkwood league and kept on getting better as the season went on,” said Outten. Along with Perez, senior Connor Lingo had a solid year. “Connor battled injury all season long but he kept on battling, kept on getting better.”
Teams aren’t successful without leadership, and this season Coach Outten felt that several players stepped up and provided it at various times. Senior goalkeeper Brent McFarland rose to the occasion time and time again. “It’s very hard to be a leader when you pretty much stay on one end of the field but that’s just what Brent did,”commented Outten.“He was very vocal, made sure guys where in position and he always made the big save when we needed to have one.”
Next season will be one in which the Buccaneers look to continue to improve. The biggest need will be at goalkeeper with McFarland departing. Outten is hoping that junior Carlos Hernandez will be able to step up next season “Carlos played mostly on the field this season but we think he has the tools to do the job.” He added “It will be all about the work that the guys put in during the offseason, you get out what you put into it.” Milford will have to continue to improve if they want to make it to the next level but the steady improvement over the last few years bodes well for a program on the rise.