Every day during the school year, Peter and Matthew Lencioni walked through the gymnasium at Rochester Adams and look to the rafters, where their 2014 Division 1 state runner-up banner hung above the yellow and brown bleachers, alongside the 1999 state championship banner.
It was a not-so-friendly reminder for the twins of how close they were to clinching the team’s first state title in more than a decade when they left Brighton on a chilly November afternoon without the trophy.
Only one shot on goal was enough for Canton to capture its second title in four years in a 1-0 victory over the Highlanders, ending a season that featured knocking off undefeated Fraser in the state semifinals and winning their first regional championship since 2009.
The feeling of taking that one step further than last year was the mantra Wednesday for Adams’ first practice for the fall season, as everyone is starving for another shot at championship glory.
“Certainly that experience is going to help us a lot,” Peter said of losing the final game of his sophomore season. “We’re just going to try to continue it and also try to build off of it.”
One of the biggest motivational pieces during the program’s championship run was having former Adams soccer star Paul Omekanda, a member of the 1999 champion and the 2001 runner-up team.
Omekanda was called “Hype Man” during the final two games of the playoffs, providing the players insight of what to expect before each match.
Now, with the loss of six seniors, including Peter and Matthew’s brother, Kevin, last season’s leading scorer (17 goals) and All-State recipient, there’s a demand for the newest breed of upperclassmen to provide that lost leadership in order to get over the hump of failing to score against Canton.
“It’s looking to be a good season so far,” seventh-year coach Josh Hickey said. “We got a lot of people coming back, but they’re still all fighting for positions. It’s going to be an exciting year, but it’s going to be tough.”
“Tough” is in reference to the latest alteration of the schedule, which now features each team in the Oakland Activities Association Red twice, including Troy Athens, Rochester, Clarkston and last year’s division champion, Stoney Creek.
But it’s not just a difficult OAA schedule the 14 varsity returnees will experience this fall. The first game is the annual Canton tournament, a bracket that features Saline, Novi Detroit Catholic Central and the reigning Division 1 champions.
The players understand the daunting challenge ahead, but the confidence in their voices and body language showed when explaining how the talent and competitiveness will roll over in the upcoming season.
“We’re going to get every team’s best game,” Matthew said. “We’re not going to be the underdog this year, everyone is going to know that we’re going to be good.”