BRISTOL - In the first game of the season, discovering a team identity is a priority for coaches as well as seeing who will bring what to the table in order to find success.
For St. Paul girls soccer and football, two familiar faces were the focal point in the season openers and the season outlook and expectations for each team looks even brighter after one game.
For the girls soccer team, Julia Dess, the leader in assists last season, started off her year on the right note. The junior had the big game, scoring two goals, leading a 4-1 victory over Holy Cross and got the Falcons off to the start they wanted in a season that has great potential.
“I think she’s fully capable of being a 20-25 goal scorer this year and she needs to step up,” St. Paul coach Jim Husbands said. “This is her junior year and she’s played really well as a freshman and as a sophomore but she really needs to take that next step to become an elite player and I think she’s got the skill and the potential to do that.”
This year’s team has high expectations for itself as many key players return and some newcomers are supposed to play pivotal roles in the outlook of the season.
“Our goal is to win states,” Dess said. “If we play together and work hard I feel like we will win states.”
For Dess, seeing the team succeed is her priority but having individual success is also very important as she hopes to go pre-med and play Division III soccer.
“It’s a cool accomplishment,” Dess said. “Over the season I’ll continue to play like that and hopefully become even better.”
For the St. Paul football team, junior running back Damien Rabis came into this year feeling good and had the team’s expectations set high.
“This year’s team can make it to the playoffs,” Rabis said. “We have the people needed to do it.”
He made sure to put on a show in Week 1 and jump-start the St. Paul football team in the season opener.
The first game for St. Paul football was on the road as well, against Sacred Heart/Kaynor. It ended with a 38-0 Flacons’ victory.
With the wishbone offensive formation, throwing the ball is not nearly as important as running it. For Rabis, the opportunity to break runs on the edge was there all game as he finished with 152 yards and four touchdowns in the game, flashing his breakaway speed.
“Damien is fast as heck,” St. Paul running back Chris Dionne said. “He’s going to be a key player for us both on offense and defense.”
While the work ethic that Rabis puts in is a big reason for his success, the talent is there to go along with it and in order for the St. Paul football team to have a strong season, Rabis and the offense must continue to find success on the ground.
“Damien is just a worker,” St. Paul head coach Jude Kelly said. “Damien plays so well because he works so hard. He’s got some athletic ability he can run and he’s put in work in the weight room so he’s got some strength but his biggest attribute is his work ethic. He gives you everything he’s got every snap.”
Both Dess and Rabis represented their school well. For the two players, having successful seasons will play a big part in the success of their teams. While true, individual accomplishments are on the back of their minds as winning and representing the school well are the priority for the two.
“I feel like this year we’re a very close knit team,” Rabis said. “I’ve been part of this program for four years and I think we get along really good which should serve us well this season.”
“I felt good. Holy Cross is one of our top competitors,” Dess said. “We haven’t beat them since I was a freshman so as upperclassmen we were really happy to beat them.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan