Both South Tama varsity soccer squads aim to improve upon last year's results with a strong senior class on one team and a variety of upperclassmen and youth on the other team.
The Trojans will both begin their seasons today with inter-squad scrimmages, with the first regular season contests on Friday for the boys and Monday for the girls. Both varsity teams are seeking to improve from the 2011 seasons, but in different ways.
The girls' squad is coming off a 3-14 record in 2011, but it has a strong core returning that played a majority of the minutes a year ago. The Trojans return seven seniors this spring, after losing just one last year. Those seven seniors have started for the Trojans since they were freshmen.
"It's a good time to learn what we've got," head coach Bob McBain said. "We've got a couple holes we need to fill. We're missing a couple players on defense right off to start the season. Otherwise, on offense, we have seven seniors returning, which is really going to help. We have a lot of potential, but we just need everybody back and healthy and I think we'll be in good shape.
"It's also fun to get girls out that have never played soccer before," he said. "We usually get three or four of them each year and they get better as we go."
McBain, who is beginning his 11th year as the Trojans coach, said his squad has 24 players on the roster, but only 16 to 20 at practice every day, because of numerous other school activities. He also said the team has been competitive every year, but he hopes they can take the next step this spring.
"The girls win the games they are supposed to and they're competitive in the ones they should be," McBain said. "We still have problems against some of the teams like Union, where the girls have been playing together since they were very young. It's a challenge, but I think the girls are up for it."
On the boys' side, the Trojans lost a large senior class in 2011 when they graduated 12 players. This year's team has about 29 players on the roster, but there is no one large class. Instead, the four classes of students are divided up fairly evenly. The numbers also give the Trojans enough for a full junior varsity squad for the second-straight season.
"I've got a lot of young kids," head coach Dave Chizek said. "We're going to do our best to do that with our young kids who are out this year. It will be interesting to watch the team grow.
"Our varsity will be a mix," Chizek said. "I've got some freshman that have played for a long time and some seniors, who are still working on things. We have a mix of everybody and not one solid core of any one class. That will make it nice as the years progress, because the five or six leaders this year will get replaced with five or six next year. We'll have a nice rotation every year."
The 12th-year coach said his team was senior-heavy last year, but it struggled to win games. He is trying to instill more team chemistry this season, hoping it produces better results.
"We didn't really play as a team," Chizek said. "We had a lot of individual talent and soccer is a game where you can't win that way. This year we're trying to do more team-building exercises. I'm also getting groups together that I can take in and out together and when they are in the game, they will perform together."
The boys will play at 4 p.m. today in Hudson. It will be an inter-squad scrimmage. The boys will be missing four or five starters for the scrimmage against Hudson.
"That's what the Jamboree is all about," Chizek said. "It's something different besides practice. It will give some kids an idea of the other team's skills and speed."
Meanwhile, the girls will have their inter-squad scrimmage at 4:30 p.m. today at Marshalltown.
"Thursday will tell me a lot," McBain said. "I will be making adjustments after Thursday's scrimmage. We will play some good competition this year, but we're excited to start Monday."
On Friday, the boys will play their first game. They will play at 4:30 p.m. in Benton. The girls will host Collins-Maxwell at 4:30 p.m. Monday at home.
"We should be ready to go Friday," Chizek said. "I'm either going to be pleasantly surprised or realize I haven't been pushing them enough during practice."