AUBURN — This fall was admittedly a rebuilding season for the St. Dom’s boys soccer team, but a pair of standout players it was a building year for their soccer careers.

Senior goalie Matt Gosselin and junior midfielder Leo Naous have their sights set on the next level, college soccer.

Gosselin has already caught the attention of Division I programs, and Naous hopes to do likewise before the end of his senior campaign next year, though first-year St. Dom’s head coach Brady Whetzel said Division II and III coaches have already taken notice of Naous.

Saint Dominic Academy goalkeeper Matt Gosselin moves into position to block a shot during a September 2019 game against Waynflete in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Gosselin said the thought of playing Division I soccer is “really crazy, honestly.”

“I mean, I didn’t really see myself, growing up, like that wasn’t necessarily something I thought was realistic, and the fact that it’s even in the conversation for me right now, for next year, is just beyond exciting,” he said.

Florida Gulf Coast University and University of New Haven, a Division II school in Connecticut, are a couple of the schools that Gosselin is most serious about, but he said his “options are open, for sure.” He added that he’d like to make a commitment by January, or the end of February at the latest.

Despite having a year left in high school, Naous already has a big choice to make himself. He is looking at playing for a prep academy in the West next year to boost his soccer career, but he said returning to St. Dom’s also is a possibility.

“I want to go play a high level of college soccer, and then maybe even try to get a contract after that,” Naous said. “So it’s extremely important for me, and I’m working hard every day for it.”

“If Leo goes to that prep school, selfishly, I’ll be sad, just because I won’t have him on the team, obviously,” Whetzel said, “but I know it’s going to be the best thing for him.”

St. Dominic’s Leo Naous moves the ball through the Sacopee Valley defense during Wednesday afternoon’s soccer game in Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Whetzel, a 2014 St. Dom’s grad who played collegiately at University of Southern Maine, was glad to have his two standouts at least for a couple seasons, after being a volunteer assistant last year.

“They’ve meant everything,” he said. “By far my two most-skilled players, but at the same point they’re my two players that have the most leadership qualities, and they have some of the best character I’ve ever seen in 16- and 18-year-old boys.”

The Saints suffered their fair share of losses this season, but Gosselin, the team captain, and Naous, an assistant captain along with senior Dom Cyr, did their best to lead the team.

Whetzel said Gosselin showed his worth in a season-opening 7-1 loss to Lake Region.

“Matt had 28 saves that game. That’s a hockey game. That’s just unheard of in soccer. He averaged 19 saves a game, as an average, throughout the entire season. And that’s on games when — we go to NYA a couple weeks ago and we lose in overtime, 3-2, he had 21 saves that game. It’s just unheard of,” Whetzel said. “So that’s been my only thing, because I know people are going to look at the box score and they’re like, ‘Oh, four, five goals against.’ But if you look at the saves, and if you look at his highlight reel and his footage that he has, I mean, the kid is just absolute raw talent, absolute raw talent.”

Naous proved his potential by scoring both of the Saints’ goals in Wednesday’s season finale, a 5-2 loss to Sacopee Valley.

“The kid’s a magician out there,” Whetzel said. “Seriously, it’s unbelievable.”

Both players have been around the game their whole life. Gosselin said he started playing when he was 4 years old, following in the footsteps of his dad, Jeff, who played collegiately at Thomas College. Naous also is following in the footsteps of his father, who grew up playing soccer in his native Lebanon.

“It’s a culture over there, and ever since I was young he’s been on me to get on it, and I’ve been trying to take it as seriously as I can,” Naous said.

Gosselin said he also has gotten a push from his father, especially academically. He also has been helped by his older brother, Ben, who currently attends Thomas. It was trips up to the Waterville campus with his brother that Gosselin first caught the attention of college coaches, and a technological tip from Ben has been part of Matt’s progression as a goalie.

“Fortunately my brother had me get a GoPro and put it behind my net my junior season,” Matt said. “So after every game I’d watch my film and figure out, if I got scored on, what to do better next time; and if I made a good save, figure out that works for myself, and just keep improving that way through film, really.”

Whetzel likely won’t have either player back on the team next year, but their skills and their leadership were instrumental in getting the Saints, with a large group of young players, through a season in which COVID-19 guidelines and regulations cast a heavy shadow.

Gosselin said he hopes he left his mark on the program. He, like, Naous, is excited to see what the Saints will do after they leave.

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