There were plenty of sleepless nights last fall for the boys soccer coaches at Fox and Seckman.

The Warriors and Jaguars combined for a record of 9-41. The Warriors were 4-21, while the Jaguars finished 5-20. Both Suburban Conference teams are assigned to the Red pool, and the records dropped off even more there as Fox was 1-10 and Seckman 2-8.

Seckman’s five victories was its lowest win total since 2004, before current head coach Tim Bookstaver took over the program.

But this year, both Bookstaver and Fox head coach Nathan Niehaus are predicting better play. The two teams were supposed to start the 2019 season against each other Friday night, but the game was washed out by rain and lightning.

“First of all, last season was a tough one to swallow because we had so much success from the previous years,” Bookstaver said. “But what it’s done is taken the juniors and seniors we have and given them motivation. And the same thing with the coaching staff. We want to get better results. I can see already that our players have been more competitive in the practices, their pace is better and they seem more focused on being the Seckman team that they should be. There are a lot of good technical players in this group, and I am expecting to have more fun than last year.”

Senior Isaac Hoog, who led Seckman with 10 goals and 26 points last season, is once again expected to provide an offensive spark. But as Bookstaver pointed out, Hoog shouldn’t have to shoulder the load by himself.

“He’s our top striker,” Bookstaver said. “I know he expects to do better than last year, and we know he’s fully capable of that. But we don’t use that as putting any pressure on Isaac, because he’s going to have (seniors) Dawson Eaton and Jonah Ritchey around him, and we’re expecting good numbers out of them.”

Seckman’s defense is relatively young but still experienced, because it consisted of freshmen and sophomores last year. Jacob Stirnemann starts at left back. Sammy Brewer is the left-center back, Gavin Johnston will be at right-center back, and the outside right back spot will fluctuate between Josh Hanneke and Griffin Anderson.

Jake Deaver is back in goal after getting knocked out last year with a broken hand, and Severn Baez will back him up.”

Like Bookstaver, Niehaus plans to ride one keeper most of the way for Fox in junior Mitchell Westbrock, who was the understudy to the graduated Colby Starkey last season. Westbrock logged 605 minutes a year ago, compared with the 1,410 played by Starkey.

“He’s our netminder, and he’ll be in there as long as he’s healthy,” Niehaus said. “But we do have options for backing him up, if needed.”

Goalkeeping might be the least of Niehaus’s worries if the Fox offense sputters like it has in past seasons. Last year the Warriors, managed to score just 21 goals in 25 contests. And leading scorer Carson Trometer (8 goals and 19 points) chose not to return for his junior season.

“We’ve talked from the beginning of practice of bringing a positive attitude, and the right mentality, for getting the job done,” Niehaus said. “And I believe we have good leadership in (senior) Luke Kos and (junior) Austin Burch. They’re our captains, and Luke (who had five goals and 16 points last season) has taken on more of a formative role.”

Jeremy Sykora and Alejandro Bolanos both played valuable minutes in the Fox offense last year and combined for five goals and 11 points.

On defense, Jack Michel will step into the center-back spot, and Joe Freeman will be pushed inside. Daniel Lorenzo is back on the defense to help with some ball control.

“But we are returning seven guys who were starters last year, and we’ve added a couple quality defenders that I think will allow us to be better,” Niehaus said. “We let a few games get away from us last season, but I really believe that we can turn some of those one-goal losses into one- or two-goal wins.”

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