U.S. developmental program takes toll on WHS boys soccer team

When last year's Wilton High boys varsity soccer team’s season ended short of conference and state titles, head coach Jim Lewicki was looking forward to this year to hopefully take his team to the next level.

Yes, Lewicki knew he was losing many of his starting players to graduation, but his forward line of seniors Kyle Dedrick and David Brown and junior Sean Dedrick, who accounted for 50 goals last fall, would be returning with another year of experience. Kyle Dedrick and Brown had also been selected as captains.

“We lose key players to graduation every year and you learn to adjust for it, but with Kyle, David and Sean returning I was enthusiastic for the upcoming year from an offensive prospective,” said Lewicki, whose team finished 14-5-1 in 2012, losing in the FCIAC semifinals and the Class LL state tournament second round. “The three were our most talented offensive players and they also displayed good leadership skills.”

Now, however, that scenario has changed dramatically. The three players have decided to compete this fall in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program, which makes them ineligible to play for Wilton.

According to Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) in-season rules, “during the high school season, starting with the first scheduled contest through the CIAC and New England tournaments, you may not practice or play with an outside team in the same sport.”

The U.S Soccer Development Academy organization, which has been around for over five years, changed to a year-round playing approach starting in 2013 to unify programs throughout the United States. The Norwalk-based Beachside Soccer Club (for which the Dedricks and Brown compete) and the Woodbridge-based South Central Premier have combined to form a new U.S. Soccer Development Academy called BSC Connecticut Academy.

BSC will have its home base at the University of Bridgeport and field U13/14, U15/16, and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams, which will have a 10-month season.

One draw for players is that colleges are increasingly interested in those who play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program.

“Choosing between U.S. Academy soccer and playing for the high school was a very difficult decision,” said Brown. “I will absolutely miss representing Wilton High School and playing alongside my high school friends.

“The college coaches I spoke with said playing Academy would be the best way to prepare for the next level,” added Brown. “Since playing in college has always been my goal, I felt that signing on with the Academy was the best choice.  At the Academy program, I will be playing with some of the best players and competition in the country, which can only help improve my game.

“I have the utmost respect for coach Lewicki and (assistant) coach (Jason) Greasley and am grateful for their support since my freshman year. I plan on going to many of the high school games this fall to support my teammates and coaches.”

Brown and Kyle Dedrick (who has already committed to Notre Dame) both made the All-FCIAC first team last season, while Sean Dedrick was chosen to the All-FCIAC East team.

“During the summer each one of them came in to sit down with me to express their intentions,” said Lewicki.” They were very up front about it and I understand why they're moving on. It hurts because we had a lot of time and effort invested in them and we were looking forward to having them on the field again this season.

“I can't sit here and dwell on it; you have to move on. Many of the high school teams could be affected by the Academy’s team, but I feel we were hit the hardest with losing these three kids.”

Lewicki said that the rest of the Wilton team was aware that the Dedricks and Brown wouldn't be playing for the Warriors this season.

“They have already had a team meeting without the coaches, led by the only remaining co-captain, senior Troy Lamason,” said Lewicki. “I am confident that the team will try their best and give us a great effort. The absence of these three will give some other players the opportunity to step up their game and contribute to the success of our team. It could be a long up-coming season, but we just have to stay focused and remain positive.”