by Ted Ryan
Ron McEachen loves his soccer pipeline from Vermont.
The former Middlebury College and University of Vermont men’s soccer coach now runs the Skidmore College program in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but he always wants a Green Mountain influence on his roster. “They’re such great kids,” said McEachen, citing the work ethic and character so common among Vermont players.
No one better typifies McEachen’s ideal of a Vermont player than Andrew Blake of Charlotte, who was recently elected captain of next fall’s Thoroughbreds’ team.
“Andrew is a wonderful young guy. He’s worked so hard. He’s not the most talented, but in terms of hard work, work ethic, and character, he’s one of the great Vermont kids I’ve gotten,” McEachen said. “He’s really worked to get to the next level. He’s become a player through hard work and dedication.”
For Blake, who played one year at Rice Memorial before transferring to Champlain Valley Union, reaching his current status at Skidmore required more than hard work and dedication. He needed a healthy dose of patience.
As a freshman Thoroughbred, Blake appeared in one game. A year ago, injuries gave him an opportunity on which he capitalized by playing in 13 games, nine of which he started.
This past season, Blake had to shift positions from right back to center back because of the starting center back’s pre-season knee injury, but Blake made the change seamlessly. He started every game and helped a freshman-laden Skidmore team to a solid 10-5-2 season.
“We had seven freshmen who played a lot,” said McEachen, explaining that the team needed the experience of Blake and another senior back to solidify the middle defense while younger players handled the outside.
“He did a wonderful job. He’s a warrior. He’s after every ball and he challenges in the air. He’s one of those guys who get it done. He reads the game, he’s a smart player, and he fears nothing.”
Blake said the transition from freshman benchwarmer to junior starter was a challenging one.
“The biggest things my freshman year were the overall speed of play, the physicality, and a lot of the athletic components,” he said. “You have to adapt to the game’s speed and how strong people are, especially in the air.”
Additionally, he said, “It was really frustrating going from the best team by far in the state to barely playing at all. It’s time consuming but you still have to put in so much time,” said Blake, who helped CVU win the state championship in his senior year.
He called his sophomore year “a pretty good season,” saying, “I got my chance and made the most of it.”
Blake anchored the right back position that year but moved to center this year. “From an individual perspective, I guess it was good. I think I was the only player to start every game,” he said. “From a team perspective, it was a little disappointing toward the end.”
Blake, who chose Skidmore because of its small liberal arts status with very good academics and a solid soccer program, has high expectations for next fall. “I think we’ll have by far the best team for the four years I’ve been here. Hopefully we’ll get an NCAA berth.”
Prior to then, the management/business/environmental science major will spend the spring semester in Austria.
“A lot of that has to do with academics. I picked a program that works well with my credits and I’ve always wanted to go to parts of Europe,” said Blake, an avid skier, who plans to take advantage of Austria’s slopes.