It’s been a few years since Augusta’s boys soccer team has had a senior class this size.
The Orioles return eight seniors to a squad that might be more experienced than any in recent years, and they want to take full advantage of that.
“I feel like we can go a lot farther than last year. We have a strong senior squad, and the juniors and sophomore have good experience,” senior Nick Young said.
The Orioles are even talking winning league and getting to State, two goals that might’ve seemed lofty to the team a couple seasons ago.
“These kids wants it more,” said coach Monty Rowland. “I think [the seniors] realize this is it.”
Part of the reason past Oriole teams haven’t realized their full potential is the struggle to gel as a unit, whether it was not playing well as a team or not having that chemistry. Mason Hiser, a senior captain for the Orioles, said this year’s team is dedicated to listening better to the team leaders.
“Just keep our heads in the game, don’t let anyone fight with each other,” said Hiser.
This group of seniors has been together on varsity for several seasons. Nate Kroeker, who plays in the back row on defense, and sweeper Caleb Strack both have shown the defense will be strong.
“With that chemistry, we can rely on each other to cover each other, and the other two guys are great,” Kroeker said. “On the defensive side, it’s kind of like a family. You’ve got to cover each other’s backs and help each other out. You know when to switch, when to talk. It comes pretty naturally after playing with [Strack] so long.”
Kroeker said that Rowland wants the defenders to push the ball up the field quickly to turn defense into offense. Part of that will be the outside defenders making runs.
Familiar face, new place
Braeden Roeper, a senior transfer from Circle, remembers what it was like playing against the Orioles.
“They all communicated really well. They all knew where the ball was going to be, when it was going to be there. They didn’t just play kickball, they played soccer,” Roper said of the Orioles’ match with Circle.
Roper will be leaned on to score plenty of goals at the forward position. He already feels integrated with his new teammates.
“I have a really good connection with them,” Roper said.
Senior Corbin Murray, arguably the Orioles’ best ball handler, will join Roper up front. Hiser will spend some time up front when he isn’t taking his left-midfielder spot. Hiser expects to play both sides, and he explained that the Orioles have plans to hit him making runs across the field with a chip over the defense.
While the starting lineup is strong across the board, the Orioles also will enjoy a new benefit.
“What’s great about this year is having that depth. We don’t usually have that,” Rowland said
The Orioles return Brandon Denoncourt, who earned All-State Honorable Mention All-State as a midfielder last year. He’ll be key to helping the Orioles’ offense stay on track.
Senior Nick Young is one of several Orioles able to play multiple positions; He’ll start as a midfielder, who are in good shape.
“We need to help both ways, offensively and defensively. We’ve got to be in shape...,” Young said. “We’re pretty well conditioned going into the start of the season.”