(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
Gone from last year is all-stater Adam Garrett, who only holds nearly every school scoring record in the book and 12 other seniors that led the Bulldogs to its best soccer season in the program's brief existence.
"I wouldn't call it rebuilding -- it's more of a restructuring or retooling situation," said head coach Derrick Long. "It's just bringing guys up and we're going to be real inexperienced starting out. There's a good side to that and a bad side. We'll start out slow, but it'll help us in the years to come. And maybe we can get it going by the end of the year towards district time."
Since Long took over the program, there has been a steady increase in victories and improvement.
But according to Long the main reason for the success was the chance to work with one group for a number of years.
"We have improved every year since I've been here," said Long. "But mainly it was working with a group for four years like those seniors last year. Just seeing them progress and get better every year helped. These younger guys have been progressing every year on jayvee. It may be just a little early for some of these sophomores to be playing varsity. But hopefully in the long run it will help them."
Returning from last year is senior Tanner Fritz and junior Brad Deere. The two are the main players to help the scoring load left by Garrett.
"There's some big shoes to fill everywhere," said Long. "Probably our main one was Adam Garrett. He scored 95 percent of our goals the last three years. We're expecting Tanner Fritz and Brad Deere to step up and be our big scorers. We really need to limit the opposition's goals. If we get into three and four goal matches then it's going to be hard for us."
Also looking to help the scoring output is junior Lance Rhodes.
Defensively the Bulldogs will be led by senior Ryan Gibson, Edward Pike and Ross Gelsheimer. A pair of sophomores, Eric Chappell and Win Dolan are also looking to contribute on defense.
"We're also putting in a brand new defense and a new goalkeeper in there," said Long. "So that's going to hurt for a while there because you want your defense to be strong. We're going to be young and inexperienced on defense. Practice is pretty competitive right now. We have so many open spots right now."
Chris Cota also graduated from the goalkeeper position. Jake Marsh and Jason Deere are the two battling for that position.
"Jake has a little more experience but Jason's a pretty good athlete," said Long. "Right now we don't have an idea of who it's going to be."
Long says he won't make any predictions on a win/loss record, but he does expect for improvement.
"Probably our biggest goal is to improve every game," said Long. "It's going to take four or five games before Coach (Doyle) Noe and I will even see who plays good together or what lineups or structures we're going to do. We have no clue until we get in game situations. You want to win during the season, that's great and everything, but you want to really shine in districts. My biggest goal always is to do well in districts so that's what we're aiming for."
Sikeston will open the season on Sept. 5 in the Notre Dame tournament where they will play Carbondale, Ill., at 5:30 p.m.