GROTON -- If there is one thing you cannot argue with, it's two Division 2 state titles.
Groton-Dunstable won consecutive state trophies in 2011 and 2012, but has since struggled to find itself in the championship game.
Much of the key cast of previous state champions has since graduated and for some, transitioned into college soccer.
Groton-Dunstable suffered key losses at each tier of the pitch with the departure of goalkeepers Connor Maguire (Clark University) Jamie Bailey (Wheaton College), midfielder Dan McGuiness, defenders Ryan Hardy (Mass Maritime) and Anthony Resca.
Fifth-year head coach Sean Wisbey is big on building tradition.
While he admits that it is going to be tough to fill the voids left by the 2014 senior class, he thinks the Crusaders will be just fine.
"One of the things I have done is allow the younger players to get some quality minutes in our preseason jamboree," Wisbey said. "
The reason I do that is to give them an experience of playing against tough competition. It certainly aids in their development, so when it's their turn to shine, it will be a smooth transition."
For the Groton-Dunstable offense, it all starts in the midfield with the tall junior Gabe Dingle and senior captain Matt Straw.
"Gabe has an absolutely vicious left foot that is very hard to defend," Wisbey said. "Straw gives us some added size and speed in the middle."
Matt Krikorian and sophomore Dean Tornaritis, the brother of 2012 tournament MVP Matt Tornaritis, will see time at outside halfback.
At striker will be senior Matt Tornaritis and junior Mitch Wheeler.
Last season, Wisbey and his Crusaders made it to the Division 2 Central Mass. semifinals where they ultimately fell to Wachusett in penalty kicks. " The way I look at it is that we did win the two state championships in Division 2, but we were bumped up by the MIAA to Div. 1," Wisbey said.
"I am proud that we were able to make that jump to Division 1 and make the semifinals in our first season at that level. Groton-Dunstable played in D-1 in short stints.
We are the first team in school history to make it to the D-1 semis."
On defense, senior Chris Buzan will get the starting nod in goal. Senior Luke Costello and junior Eric Niemoller will see playing time at outside halfback. Juniors Jason Pang and Nate Martinez are both going to help at the midfield for Groton-Dunstable.
Senior Keenan Kimetto and junior Andy Karasevich will see time at the midfield.Buzan has the task of filling the shoes of stalwart keepers in both Bailey and Maguire.
Buzan will be joined on defense with senior captain Tim Hilbrunner, Pat Keating and Tyler Poitras.
The final defender position is still up in the air with Michael Ho appearing to be the front-runner.
So what's the goal for the Crusaders heading into the season?
"We want to make the Central Mass Finals," Wisbey said. "It is all about taking that next step as a program. I say, we might as well win the whole thing if we make it that far. Despite the work we have on the defensive end, once we establish ourselves as a good defensive team, the offense will take care of itself. If you look at the landscape of Division 1, we should be in that battle to win our league this season.
"A lot of these kids have been in the program since they were younger. They know what it takes to win a championship.
"The sky is the limit for this team."