It’s a rare thing when a team gets the luxury of both an abundance of seniors and experienced players in general.
The Newton boys soccer team will experience just that this season.
Returning the core of a team that includes the top three goal scorers and multiple defenders from last season, the Cardinals have the experience and the athletes to likely improve on last season’s 6-12 finish.
“Even with the guys we lost, we’re still bringing back quite a few, so that’s good,” Newton coach Tim Heger said. “We have a lot of seniors this year and we’ll probably be starting 10 most games, which we’ve never done before. I have high expectations, but I know they have high expectations as well.”
Leading the charge for the Cards offensively will be seniors Austin Shores, Tyler Hansen and Jesse Bates. Shores led the team with eight goals last season, while Hansen had four and Bates had three goals and four assists while splitting time between the midfield and defense. The Cards only lose four goals from last year to graduation, and return sophomore Nick Easley and junior Chandler Sturtz, who combined for three total.
A similar situation can be found on the other side of the ball, as a plethora of Cardinal defenders return after last season. There will be some holes due to the graduations of the likes of Cal Fisher and Nick Pritchard, but the returning experience outweighs what was lost. Andrew Clements, Peder Hopkins and Sturtz are just a few of the returning defenders that will see plenty of time this season, and goalkeeper James Leonard saw action in 13 games last year, starting six.
“We have a lot of the defense coming back, which we hope is the strength of the team,” Heger said. “Plus James got a lot of time in goal, so that helps a lot.”
Just as important as the returning players will be the cast of underclassmen that will see the fray this season. Although not an underclassmen, senior Matheus Pinto is a newcomer to the team who will likely see some starting minutes. If his soccer skills are anything like what he did in the pool in the winter, the Cards could see a major boost in productivity.
“They’re definitely going to need to step in and see some time,” Heger said of his newcomers. “The nice thing is we have so many seniors so we can just ease them in and see what they can do.”
Even with a senior-filled roster and plenty of experience, it will be a tough road for the Cards this season. Conference foes Pella and Norwalk both reached the state tournament last season and although the Cards finished with a 4-2 record in the conference, the remaining teams will also be bringing back some talent.
“Like normal, Norwalk and Pella will probably be picked to finish at the top,” Heger said. “Little Hawkeye always has a few teams making it to state, and top-to-bottom our conference is pretty good. It’s competitive.”
Newton will begin its season tomorrow with a challenge, hosting Norwalk at H.A. Lynn Stadium at 7:30 p.m.