That was the case in 2011 for the Wooster Generals’ boys soccer team as injuries sliced and diced the team’s preseason hopes and ultimately resulted in a 4-12-1 season.
As coach Brian Hansen enters his 10th campaign at Wooster he is hoping that the Generals can avoid a repeat of last year’s injury bug and return to competitive form.
“I think the guys we have coming back learned their lesson on how not to prepare for a game or how not to practice,” said Hansen. “I’ve already seen a different attitude. Hopefully we’ll take those losses to heart and say ‘we’re not going to do this again.’
“We got decimated by injuries. I’ve never once turned around and not had any subs to put in. That’s a scary moment as a coach – ‘Wow, nine guys on the bench injured and I have no one to put in for a guy that needs a sub.’ I think they are in good shape. I think they did more in the offseason than in the past. Injuries are part of the season – it’s just the luck of what happens and bad luck was on our side last year.”
The Generals have eight returning lettermen to build this season around heading into its season and OCC opener against Orrville (August 21), which turned into a 5-3 victory.
The Generals are opening with a blend of experience and youth. Its backline features four lettermen that are back for another go-around. Seniors Skylar Breiner and Bryan Dilyard return on the backline along with juniors Brian Crum and Cooper Orr to give the Generals a veteran base. A trio of midfielders also return – middies/forwards Ben Adams (senior) and junior Jesse Wiles. Up top will be senior Max Martinez, who will be there along with senior Mitch Buckwalter.
“The rest of the positions will be sophomores,” said Hansen. That will include in goal where sophomore Nick Runyan takes over those duties. Mike O’Donnell will see time in the midfield while Zac Zemrock-Van der Meer will also step into the starting lineup.
“The defense will have to step up big time,” said Hansen. “This is only the second time in 10 years I’ve put a sophomore in goal … but they are the ones I don’t have to worry about. All he has to do is make a big save here or there. Having confidence in the goalkeeper helps out the defense. (Nick) could have challenged George for that role last year – he wowed us as a freshman with how skilled and unflappable he was.”
While there are question marks, the key for Hansen is for his team to get off to a good start.
“If they can mentally prepare themselves for the start of the game, they can compete with anyone on the field and be in games and win,” said Hansen, who watched Orrville jump to an early 3-1 lead before rallying. “We’ve had a tough time getting the bus rolling. If we can survive the first 10-15 minutes and get into the game, we’ll be all right.
“Confidence is going to be the key. If we know we can compete before we step on the field, that’s half the battle. We have to lace our boots up and go right from the whistle. They’ve got to want it. … For the most part we have to get on the right page. We tend to have mental blocks. If we stay in our positions, we have the speed to get back and cover. We need to know how to cover and react to each other.”
Wooster will operate out a base 4-4-2 shape, “but that could change game to game,” said Hansen. “Depending on who we play, we may drop one back and play deeper and see how that works.
“We’re ready to go. We’re done now (with preseason) and we’ve got to be ready to go. We have to be ready for every OCC game and we can’t let up. We’ve got to be ready every time, every single match.”
Published: August 24, 2012