November 30, 2012

BOYS SOCCER PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Matt Saunders

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The high school soccer season may have ended for Matt Saunders but the game is a year-round activity for the Lawrence senior. He played in a season-ending tournament recently for his Seacoast premier team and will begin practices with the club in mid-December.

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MATT SAUNDERS

KENNEBEC JOURNAL/MORNING SENTINEL ALL-STARS

First team
F — Matt Saunders, Sr., Lawrence
F — Gabe Smith, Sr., Winslow
F — Danilo Guthro, So., Waterville
M — Colin Lush, Sr., Hall-Dale
M — John Terhune, Sr., Waterville
M — Drew Bois, Sr., Lawrence
M — Drew Parsons, So., Mt. Blue
D — Kevin McCarthy, Sr., Messaloskee
D — Zach Elwell, Sr., Maranacook
D — Nick Lacasse, Sr., Maranacook
G — Sam Shepherd, Sr., Hall-Dale

Second team
F — Eddie Stewart, Sr., Richmond
F — Zack McNaughton, Sr., Hall-Dale
F — Nat Crocker, So., Hall-Dale
M — Sam Nielsen, Sr., Maranacook
M — Tommy Samson, Sr., Waterville
M — Taylor Roy, Jr., Winslow
M — Aiden Calkins, Sr., Messalonskee
D — Henry Ametti, Sr., Skowhegan
D — Luke Dang, Sr., Cony
D — Josh Suga, Sr., Erskine
G — AJ Freeman, Sr., Maranacook

Honorable mention
Carrabec/Madison: Tate Knowles, Brandon Lebay, John Layman; Cony: Ean Rouillard, Chris Paradis, Brandon Elwell; Erskine: Tyler Adams, Zach Isbel, Jared Gartley; Gardiner: Dan Del Gallo, Ian Lane, Andy Roberts, Jesus Lasos; Hall-Dale: Zac Plummer, Spencer Shagoury, Ezra Jones; Lawrence: Sawyer Letourneau, Zach Blomerth; Maranacook: Alec Daigle, Taylor Wilbur, Alex Tooth; MCI: Chris Boudreau, Matt Lessard, Doug Bryant; Messalonskee: Jarrod Simpson, Ryan Erskine, Jonah Webb; Monmouth: Kyle Fletcher, Devin Smith, Kasey Smith; Mt. Abram: Chris Daly, Calum Dixon, Jay Chenard; Mt. Blue: Ike Doiron, Gage Kennedy; Mt. View: James Philbrook, Trevor Diemer, Jack Simpson; Nokomis: Lucas Hayden, Christian Brown, Jeff Ludden, Nick Reynolds; Oak Hill: Trevor Samson, Cody Rolston, Dalton Burns; Rangeley: AJ Elmes, Gunnar Johnson; Richmond: Randy Moody, Xavier Trask, Dustin Sullivan, Sam Lorbeski; Skowhegan: Sam Wheeler, Ethan Boyd, Trevor Hinckley; Valley: Carrington Miller, Josh West, Stone Ellis; Waterville: Zack Disch, Kaleb Kane; Winslow: David Grant, Braden Maillet, Alex Berard; Winthrop: Jake Valle, Matt Sekerak, Dalton Cummings.

Editor’s note: All-stars are selected by the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel staff and include athletes from Maine Principals’ Association schools.

"We've got some really good players this year," he said.

Injuries prevented Lawrence from going as far in the postseason as it might have, but that was no fault of Saunders who turned in a banner season and was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North division player of the year. The senior striker saved his best high school game for last when he led the Bulldogs to a tournament prelim win against Messalonskee. He had a goal and an assist in the game to finish his season with 19 goals and five assists.

For his efforts, Saunders has been selected Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Winslow senior Gabe Smith was also considered.

Saunders will be one of the starters on a Lawrence basketball team expected to contend for the Eastern Maine Class A title this winter. But soccer is never too far from is mind. He watched his older brothers Josh and Sam play and had a ball on his foot by age 5.

"It's just an awesome sport," he said. "It's pretty fast-paced (and) everyone has to be working together to win."

Saunders plans on playing next year in college. While playing in a tournament with Seacoast in Washington, D.C., he caught the eye of U.S. Naval Academy coach Dave Brandt, who recruited him.

"I had some pretty good games," Saunders said.

Saunders has since applied to the Naval Academy and received a letter of assurance. He's gone through the interview process and is awaiting a nomination from a member of the Maine congressional delegation.

Although he played striker for most of his high school career, Saunders played a defensive or attacking center mid, a position he calls his favorite, for his club team. He's versatile enough to play anywhere, according to Lawrence coach Bob Towne.

"He'll take a guy one-on-one, he'll make a great pass," Towne said. "If you want him to play D, he'll play D."

At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Saunders has the strength and speed to handle any opponent that comes his way. This year, many did, as he was often double teamed.

"He understands he's going to draw people," Towne said. "He'll make the play or find somebody who will."

Saunders was good from Day 1, Towne said, making the all-conference team each of his four years at Lawrence. This year, though, he took on more responsibility as both a team captain and the focal point of the offense.

"I just focusing on not losing the ball, being creative in the attacking third and finishing my opportunities," he said.

Saunders, who has played tennis and run track in the spring, will opt for track and field this year to get into better shape.

"I want to get faster and get a better touch on the ball," he said of his goals for next season.

As a captain this year, Saunders mostly led by example.

"When he did speak to the team his message was pretty clear," Towne said. "He's going to take you to his level with him."

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

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