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Unified Soccer – Returning Champs

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Image courtesy of NHIAA

The buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the 2021 Unified Soccer season. The players on the bench flood the field as they celebrate their championship win. Dover players head back to their bench after losing their lead to Oyster River in the second half. As the team arrives back at the school after being escorted by the police for their win, players and partners are already looking forward to next season.

Unified sports have always been popular at ORHS. Whether it is soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, or volleyball in the spring, the unified roster is always loaded up with partners and players. This fall, the unified soccer team is looking forward to a successful season however, with a few changes this year.

Although the players and partners on the roster are mostly all returning, this is a new team entering the year. The first substantial change is the new coach, Cam Calato, who will be filling Alex Satterfield’s role as head coach. The second change is that this team is coming back to defend the state championship of the 2021 season.

Mitchell Warden (‘23) is a big part of the unified program. Averaging multiple goals per game last season, Warden had a significant impact on last year’s state championship run. “We have a lot more confidence in the team because [there are] a lot of the same players [as last year],” said Warden who thinks the team can go on another run but that they have to keep pushing. “We got to keep going because it’s not going to get easier, it’s going to get tougher as we go.”

Brian Sealy, the assistant coach of the team, agrees with Warden but adds, “You know, there’s always that pressure when you’re the defending champs. The teams come out, kind of looking to go after you and they want to be where you were last year.” Sealy is excited and thinks that because it is a large group of returning players, they will be able to manage the pressure that they are destined to face.

Calato feels the pressure, especially since his first-year coaching will be after such a successful season. “My first day of practice I asked, ‘how many people [have] played before’ and everyone’s hands went up… it was a little scary.” But Calato appreciates how ready the team is, “this is a group that obviously had success last year and bonded…everybody is super welcoming, and
we’re off to the races.”

Calato also thinks that the team is already prepared and doing the right thing, especially with the 5-1 win against Dover for their first game. When asked what he did as a coach during the Dover game, Calato said, “kind of stay out of [the team’s] way a little bit, [they] obviously have good chemistry and some success and know what [they’re] doing.”

Partner Riley Drapeau (‘24), also feels the pressure but thinks it helps the team. “It’ll still be good that we have some high expectations.” She is excited about the new coach but says he is still learning about unified soccer. “He doesn’t know many of the rules so it’s definitely a learning experience for him.” Drapeau, however, thinks the year will be similar to last year and hopefully play out the same.

Even though the season is a little nerve-racking, the team doesn’t seem to be cracking under the pressure, shown in the 5-1 win against Dover. This win couldn’t have been accomplished without Warden’s four goals. When asked how it felt, Warden said, “Pretty good, new career high. I didn’t think I would have done that. It gave me confidence, more than I had before.” Warden hopes to continue playing like this through the season.

The unified team has played a total of three games, about halfway through the season. After a loss against Exeter (9/28/22), the team rallied with a 7-1 win against Londonderry.

The team is hoping this win secured them a spot in playoffs. After last year’s playoff run, the team is more than ready to have a repeat.

– Abby Deane

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