By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield boys soccer team accomplished two things last season that had never been done before in the history of the program – an outright Wisconsin Valley Conference championship and a trip to the WIAA state tournament.
With eight seniors gone to graduation, including goalkeeper Matt Brown and top scorers Matt McCann and Austin Gilbert, there are holes to be filled, but the confidence and team chemistry that were key parts to the Tigers’ success in 2013 is carrying over.
Marshfield, coming off a school-record 19-win season (19-5-3 overall) that ended with a 4-1 loss in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals last fall, opens its 2014 season Tuesday with a nonconference home game against Onalaska. The game begins at 5 p.m. at Griese Park.
The Tigers follow that up with a nonconference game at Wauwatosa West on Friday and two games on Saturday at Sun Prairie before opening Wisconsin Valley Conference play with home games against Wausau West next Tuesday and Wausau East on Aug. 28.
Even with the loss of those eight players from last year, Marshfield is loaded with experience. A total of 13 seniors and one junior that saw playing time on the varsity team last year are back and ready to make another run toward a WVC title and a deep postseason push.
“It’s great to have seven or eight starters back,” said Steve McCann, who takes over for Ron Todryk as the Tigers’ head coach after three years as an assistant. “We have a lot of guys who have a lot of game experience. Having them all back helps.”
Senior co-captain Ryan Hayes said this year’s group is seeing that experience as a big plus to continuing the success the Tigers had last season.
“Austin and Matt, were both good leaders, but (what) they really did the best was bring us all together and having us work together,” Hayes said. “This group of seniors, we’ve been playing eight or nine years together and we’ve had some of that chemistry already built in. We have some juniors and sophomores stepping into new roles, but they’re fitting in really well and it’s good to see that chemistry carrying over.”
Seniors Alex Sainterme, Chris Pahl and Brandon Meyer will lead the charge offensively, along with midfielders Jake Limmex and Ryan Hayes, and senior Trevyn Tham will jump into the starting role at goalkeeper, McCann said.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a tactical approach (offensively),” McCann said. “We’re going to be a little more attack-minded as a unit. We have some players that have great potential to score, we just have to achieve it.”
Defensively, Limmex said the Tigers will have to adjust to playing in different situations, much like they did last year.
“I think last year we did a good job of not losing a game in the last 10 minutes,” Limmex said. “It’s very important in the Valley that we learn how to take the ball out of the air this year, especially when teams play a style where they try to launch through-balls over the top.”
Juniors Nick Okon, Tyler Andres and Leo Steiner, and sophomores Alec Hinson, Hunter McManus and Luke McCann will battle for playing time as first-year varsity members.
Junior Mathias Holm will be the backup goalkeeper and seven other seniors – Brad Cherney, Brandon Nikolai, Thomas Kruger, Alex Babinski, Nathan Law, Zach Leggon, and Austin Christianson – will be in the mix for starting and key reserve spots.
“As the season progresses, I think they have a great opportunity to be, potentially, a few of my starters,” McCann said of the newcomers. “Others will certainly get some experience on varsity. We’re going to have a lot of seniors on the squad so next year we’re going to have a big hole, so we’ll want to get those sophomores and juniors some game experience.”