Under head coach Mark Fowler, the boys’ varsity soccer team at Thomas Dale High School has won two state titles (2005 and 2006) in four appearances in the state tournament, three regional championships and a number of district titles in between. But in reflecting on the program’s success during the thirteen years he has lead the program, he praises his talented players, both former and present – and not himself.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of good players,” he said. And perhaps he has. Many of his players have gone on to play at Division 1 universities: Will Bates is now a soccer standout at UVA; Patrick Innes plays at JMU; and Roger Bothe, a recent graduate of William and Mary, played professionally for the Richmond Kickers last spring.
Last season, the team failed to conquer the Central Regional tournament, but according to Fowler there are no excuses; “There were just some better teams than us,” he said.
But in their rebuilding year the team is undefeated at 2-0, beating district rival Matoaca in their first game of the season; and according to Fowler, this year’s team has some potential.
“This year I think we could be pretty decent. We got a lot of the pieces of the puzzle and they’re all going to come together,” said Fowler. “…We’re pretty deep this year. I think we’re deeper than we’ve been in a number of years. We’ve got a lot of weapons coming from a lot of different directions.”
Three of those weapons are also the captains of the squad – senior central defender and son of Fowler, Griff; Jack Bates, a senior center midfielder and younger brother of former Thomas Dale standout Will Bates; and junior midfielder Dan Lauretano. Fowlers’s younger sons, twins Evan and Vaughn, are sophomores on the team and contribute as central midfielders as well.
“This year we have a lot of depth and are more senior-laden,” said Lauretano. “Our first game really set the tone for the season. Matoaca has always been a big rival but this year we’re trying to fly by and just get as far as possible and take our chances. This year, that’s our big thing.”
For Fowler, the most important thing for the team to do right now is to focus on one district game at a time because the standard of the district has gone up, he said. Nonetheless, he still has his eyes set on making it to the state tournament.
But for Fowler, who has seen many “good people” come through his successful soccer program, the focus is not always on winning.
“I try to turn the guys into fine young gentlemen, not just winners; – obviously that’s part of it – but to me it’s more important that they become fine young gentlemen,” he said. “That’s far more important to me than the soccer itself.”
This week the squad plays Dinwiddie on Tuesday, April 5 and Prince George on Thursday, April 7, both at Thomas Dale.