Opportunities like this don't come along that often, so coach Monty Rowland wants to take full advantage of it.
The Orioles are shaking up their alignment to take advantage of their speed and put pressure on opponents. Rowland said Augusta will run a system similar to what North Carolina runs. The formation will consist of three defenders, not four, flat across the back. There will be two holding midfielders to help on defense and push the ball forward in transition more quickly to the three midfielders and two forwards up front.
"Sometimes it looks good. Sometimes it doesn't," Rowland said. "We haven't gotten comfortable with it yet, but hopefully we can handle it. It puts pressure on the defense."
The defense starts with senior goalie Jacob Lowery, who's back after missing a chunk of last season with a concussion. Lowery has made big strides in improving his skills and his effort in the net.
"I'd like to have a few more clean sheets this year," Lowery said. "...Don't just assume where a ball is going. Make sure to follow through with it, follow it out."
In front of Lowery will be Patrick Bruce in the center and Nate Kroeker and Caleb Strack on the defensive wings. Kroeker brings physicality on defense—sometimes too much, he admitted.
"You can't be afraid, but you don't want to be too aggressive," Kroeker said. "...I'll try to even it out, know when to go in, know when to hold back a little bit more."
A big key to the new system will be the holding mids. Rowland will line up Brandon Denoncourt and Corbin Murry in those positions to push the ball.
"They'll attack plus distribute the ball," Rowland said.
At midfield will be Michael Albright, Mason Hiser and Nick Young. Like the rest of the Orioles, Albright feels the new alignment will take advantage of the team's strengths once they figure out how to work better as a unit.
"We definitely have the speed this year. Lot of speed. Everyone's pretty quick," Albright said. "I think our main thing is just talking and ball movement, knowing where each other is."
Up front will be senior Kyler Steinkamp and sophomore Rob Winzer, both of whom have tremendous speed and can break loose at any time with their great ball handling.
Rowland said that the Orioles, who clicked particularly well torward the end of last season, have come into this season in even better shape. The players are hoping their work ethic and consistent effort will strengthen their mentality on top of their physicality.
"After we lost a game, we kind of took it hard," Kroeker said of last year's team. "We just need to keep our chins up. But I know we definitely have it in us."
Page 2 of 2 - "It's going to take some playing time. We realy came together last year toward the end of the season. We're not back to that point yet, but they've been working really hard," Rowland said.