Gilman coach Jon Seal has built his Greyhounds into one of the best programs in the nine-team Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, earning playoffs berths for seven consecutive years (2007-2013) while winning a championship in 2010.
That spark, however, has been lost over the last two years with the Greyhounds failing to reach the postseason, although Seal is confident that streak will end this fall for a seasoned team that returns 15 seniors and seven starters.
People listen when Seal talks about the potential he sees in his Greyhounds.
“I think we are beyond hungry for the playoffs,” he said. “I think we are famished. We are really poised to not only get to the playoffs, but to make a run. I think that this group, that is more talented and deeper, has worked too hard not to experience it. We are a team that if you don’t come ready for us, we are going to beat you.”
Seal says his 2016 squad will be remembered, regardless of how the Greyhounds do on their new field — one that boasts Kentucky blue grass.
That alone should have Gilman playing with an edge all season.
“It’s a gorgeous facility,” the coach explained. “I told them, ‘This team is going to be remembered whether you like it or not because you will be the first Gilman team playing on this field. Do you want to be remembered as the team that made the playoffs and made a championship run? Or do you want to be remembered as the team that underachieved?”
The defense of seniors Sam Tirone, a three-year starter, Jack Houley, Clayton Hebert and Luke Wulff, will be a significant key to the team’s effectiveness.
All four players are returning starters.
“It’s an ideal situation having those four seniors on the backline,” Gilman assistant coach Rich Shock said. “They communicate well and are tremendous without the ball. They really take the time to find the open guy.”
Seal added: “It will have to be the backbone of the team just because we lack experience in the goal.”
Senior John Philippou is the new starter in goal and he replaces Jack Young, a two-year starter.
Senior Hunter Dase backs up Philippou. “John is a very good athlete,” Seal said. “He is 6-3 and is good in the air, but he is learning how to play the position. He is raw in certain areas and we are continuing to work with him. The advantage of having a backline with four seniors is that we should be able to protect him.”
Gilman’s offense got a boost with the addition of freshman forward Teddy Ndje to the starting lineup.
Ndje played for the Under-14 Baltimore Darby club soccer national championship team this summer.
“He might be a freshman, but he doesn’t play like one,” Seal said. “He is the most dynamic frontrunner we have had at Gilman. He is that good. He is a guy that can change the game with as many touches as he will get on the ball.”
Ndje will be feeding the ball to senior midfielder Matthew Katz (7 goals, 3 assists last year) and senior forward Braeden Alevizatos.
“The 15 seniors we have on the varsity have experienced missing the playoffs and some have even missed the playoffs for two years,” Shock said. “They are definitely hungry to make it. But it's not a given. They have to work hard for it.”