Since Thomas Dale won back to back soccer state championships in 2005 and 2006, the success hasn’t been matched, but the Knights have built a dynasty in the Central Region with their soccer prowess. The timeframe also includes three regional titles, and five state tournament appearances.
“Thomas Dale is still a football school,” said head coach Mark Fowler, who has spearheaded the program during its most successful times. “We have been fortunate to have some very good players, and we’ve developed a good program- across the board this year. We should be very solid.”
Last season ended within the first round of the states against North Stafford, a match that Dale lost 2-0. They previously had played Deep Run, and narrowly lost their chance at their fourth regional title in eight years 1-0. Despite the losses, Fowler points out the team this year will be more experienced overall.
“We have a lot of players that play at a high level,” said Fowler. “But you never know what you’re really going to be if you get the chemistry right.”
Speaking of a high level, Thomas Dale does sport several ‘academy players’ who either play for the Richmond Kickers U18 or U16 teams, teams that are among the highest level to play at. One challenge Fowler says the team could face is finding someone to put the ball in the net on a consistent basis.
“I think every soccer team is looking for a good goal scorer,” said Fowler. “I think we have a few candidates. It’s just about who it’s going to be and who will step up and be that man.”
Candidates for that position include Virginia Tech commit Dan Lauretano, a forward/midfielder who could do some damage. Grayson Smith, Evan and Vaughan Fowler and Senior Antonio Carrabotta, who usually plays defender, were also mentioned as candidates. As far as college prospects go, Lauretano is not alone, as Carrabotta has offers from Longwood and Christopher Newport, and senior goalie Tony Groban who has an offer from Towson (Maryland).
The Central District has grown into quite a challenge for Thomas Dale despite their relative dominance. Fowler is quick to point out that winning the district is never as easy as it seems. Teams like Colonial Heights, Matoaca and Meadowbrook are teams that Fowler could see causing issues.
“Colonial Heights has a new coach this year, and they always make it difficult for us,” said Fowler. “They are a good team this year, Matoaca didn’t lose many seniors, and Meadowbrook has quite a few talented players from South America as well.”
When making a prognosis, Fowler is careful, and complimentary of the talent that Dale comes up against.
“We take everything a step at a time,” said Fowler. “Our first goal will be the district,” he continued. “I’m optimistic, but in soccer any team is one or two injuries away [from struggling].”
Most any coach would relish the opportunity to coach such a talented squad year in and year out. With any team, there are adjustments that need to be made, but sometimes Fowler lets things play out.
“Sometimes as a coach, the one thing you try not to do is mess things up.” Fowler stated.
Thomas Dale opens their season with a potentially tough match hosting Colonial Heights on March 22 at 6:30 p.m., JV at 5 p.m.