MANCHESTER -- Senior Liam Kelleher -- the captain of the Burr and Burton Academy soccer team -- sat on the bench, his crutches beside him, watching his team practice.
But Kelleher is not just the captain, he is one of the team’s standout players and one of only two returning starters from last season’s undefeated state championship season.
Kelleher sustained the injury while playing in a game with the Southern Vermont All Stars against the Vermont Voltage. Although he originally he thought it was a charlie horse, Kelleher said the injury continued to become stiff and swollen.
A trip to the doctor’s office revealed that he had a hematoma -- or blood clot -- in his leg about the size of a golf ball, Kelleher said.
"[He’s] been an All-State player for two years in a row and he brings great leadership and ability," said coach Peter Mull. "He’s being looked at by UVM and other D-I programs, so he’s definitely the real deal. He’ll bring a lot to the table."
While no definite timetable has been set for his return, Kelleher said he’s hopeful that he’ll be well enough to take the field for the team’s first match against Mount Anthony Union High School on Sept. 4.
"You know, I hope to be back and running again by the first game, but you know we’ll see. I mean that’s Sept. 4 and I hope to be back to normal by then," Kelleher said.
Having Kelleher in the lineup would certainly help the team as the Bulldogs move up to Division I.
BBA starts the season with three games in four days, against MAU and Mount Greylock and Monument Mountain -- two of the better programs in western Massachusetts, Mull said -- at a tournament.
"We don’t have teams like Otter Valley and Fair Haven, they’re the B division of the Marble Valley League now," Mull said. "There’s just not going to be any breaks in our schedule. It’s going to be one tough game after another."
BBA has the target on its back, having won the past two Division II titles. Last year, the Bulldogs capped a perfect season with a 2-1 win over Montpelier.
They’ll also rely heavily on the other returning starting member of last year’s squad -- junior Reid Conde, BBA’s leading scorer last year with 17 goals.
"Already this preseason [he] has taken a lot of leadership out on the field," Kelleher said. "When he sees someone doing something that might be just off or whatever he’ll give them that talking and say ‘Here, you’ve got to pressure this guy when ...’ He’s definitely taking leadership on the field."
In addition to the players that he has been working with in preseason, Mull said BBA also has international students that will be joining the team, one from Spain and the other from Brazil -- that will be joining this year’s squad.
With only six returning players, Mull said it’s unclear who will mind the net, but that junior Adam Maitland has been getting significant time as keeper.
"He’s been getting a good look at it and has been playing most of preseason in the goal, but we’re also looking at a freshman, James Doherty. So, those two guys will fight for time between the pipes," Mull said.
This year’s team will be a young one, Mull said with only four seniors, three sophomores and potentially even a freshman projected to be in the starting lineup -- something Mull said he did not mind.
"We’ll be very young, but one of the nice things about that is the younger teams tend to develop more quickly as the season progresses," Mull said. "We’re young and skilled and we just need to learn to play with each other." Football
* Coach: Jason Thomas (6th season)
* Last year: 6-4, lost to Rice in D-II tournament
* The team: Record-setting quarterback Jake Stalcup and receiver Chris Redding have graduated, taking more than 50 touchdowns combined to Middlebury and New Hampshire, respectively. But for coach Jason Thomas, it’s a matter of figuring out who will fill in. Both starters in the backfield return in senior Eric Cerra and junior Wilson Vickers. Under center, junior Ryan Smith should get the first crack to start, but freshman Griff Stalcup has the talent to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Senior Dalton Blackwell could be the first option through the air or on the ground. Leading the offensive and defensive lines will be seniors Zak Horvath and Cam Senecal.
* Opener: August 30 vs. Lyndon Institute at Applejack Field, 7 p.m.
* Coach: Dan DeForest (31st season)
* Last year: 8-5-2, lost to South Burlington in playdowns
* The team: When the BBA girls soccer team begins their season Sept. 3, DeForest expects good things. Burr and Burton has a solid nucleus returning -- of the 21 players, 14 were on last year’s squad. Maggie Penkoff, who was the team’s starting stopper last year, is returns on the defensive line as does Tess Pollard. Juniors Jordan Harmon, Daisy Sullivan and Dierdre Walsh will be returning up front. Sullivan, a big contributor last season, has been out with a knee injury. The goal is for her to be able to play the season opener but DeForest said that will depend on her health. Juniors Joanna Jorgenson and Samantha Sullivan, who split time in goal last year, are back again. Lucy Bisselle, who was called up from the JV Gold team, has also shown that she has the skill set to play halfback.
* Opener: Sept. 3 at Hoosick Falls, 7 p.m.
* Coach: Barb Miceli and Julie Fifield (1st season)
* Last year: 1-10, did not reach postseason play
* The team: After the retirement of Barb Muench, Miceli and Fifield return after varying hiatuses to lead the Bulldogs. The roster was set last week and includes a mix of veterans and new players with eight returners and nine new players. "They are an incredibly hard working bunch and we have a lot of excellent athletes this year," said Miceli. "The returning players are bringing a lot of skill and experience. We have some players who are brand new to the sport so skill development is where we’re really going to be focusing and game strategy; getting these athletes to be field hockey players." There are currently 31 girls between varsity and JV, but Miceli said they typically see an increase in the number of players once international students arrive.
* Opener: August 30 vs. Springfield, 4:30 p.m.
* Coach: Sandy Birch
* The team: A little less than a week before the start of this year’s cross country season, coaches Sandy Birch and Heidi Welch have lofty aspirations for this year’s team. "Our mood this year is journeying toward the banner," Birch said. The pair have high expectations for their two top runners -- Lauren Miskovsky and Thomas Kittross. Miskovsky replaces Abby Lord -- who graduated last year -- as the top runner on the girls team while Kittross is reprising the role in his senior season. Seniors Abigail Stalcup and Amanda Mulroy -- who is new to the team this year -- are also expected significant contributors. On the boys side, senior Simon Aborn and juniors Eric Owen, Sam Silsby and Ike Pritchard will help anchor this year’s team. Currently there are 34 students signed up and International students and transfer students have yet to arrive. By the time the season opens, Birch said that she expects the team will have about 40 runners.
* Opener: Sept. 3 at Rutland