Anthony Bellomo, who was a three-year starting goalie for Salem, couldn’t settle on a college destination for the 2019-20 school year.
“I was recruited by a few schools (for soccer), but nothing looked good,” said Bellomo. “The schools that had soccer I didn’t love and the schools I liked didn’t have soccer,” said Bellomo. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
Haverhill’s Ethan Rousseau, meanwhile, wasn’t thinking about college at all.
“My original plan was to go straight into the work force,” said Rousseau. “I want to be a carpenter and I had a job lined up.”
But then Rousseau, like Bellomo, got the word.
“I heard that Northern Essex was going to have a soccer team and I decided I wanted to keep playing,” said Rousseau.
As for Bellomo, the news that the Knights were reviving soccer after an absence of more than 20 years, resolved his dilemma.
“I wasn’t sure but I was probably going to go to another community college,” said Bellomo. “When I found out that Northern Essex had soccer, that settled it.”
Their stories are different, but Bellomo and Rousseau had a similar resolution and they’re now co-captains for the revived Knights’ soccer program, which has gotten off to a good start.
Although there were only 15 players heading into this week, first-year coach Eusebio Marote is pleased with the core of the team.
“I feel like my starting 11 (players) are solid and we should be pretty competitive,” said Marote, who was a standout at Lowell High and Daniel Webster College. “But we have to stay healthy. We don’t have much depth at all.
“I’m happy with the guys we have, but I was shooting for 24 so we could have enough to scrimmage and develop more depth. I’m still hoping to add a couple of players but, for now, we’ve just had to adjust our practices.”
The strength of the team could be its defense led by Bellomo and backup goalie John Chasse, who was the starting netminder for Haverhill High. Rousseau is a solid center-midfielder.
“I feel like we’re pretty solid overall ... the main thing we’re missing is a striker,” said Marote. “But I hope to develop one.”
“My goal is to be at least .500 but it’ll be tough with the (low) numbers and our inexperience. All 15 of our players are freshmen.”
Lack of depth has been evident in the Knights’ first two games, both 1-0 setbacks, the second coming in double overtime. In both games, Northern Essex played with just 12 players while Southern Maine (in particular) substituted freely.
The captains, meanwhile, are just happy to continue playing soccer. But they’re also upbeat about the team.
“For a first-year program, I think we have a lot of talent,” said Bellomo. “I’m kind of surprised.”
Adds Rousseau: “A lot depends on the competition, but I think it looks good and we could do pretty well.”
Marote, meanwhile, is already planning ahead beyond his first season with the Knights.
“We’re already in the recruiting process for next year,” said Marote. “We want to stay local and get the word out. We’re seeing high school games and taking the steps we need to.”
Those steps will hopefully provide more depth in the future. At any rate, they should keep giving players like Bellomo and Rousseau the option to continue playing the sport they’re so passionate about.
“When I found out that Northern Essex had soccer, that settled it.”