(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- After last season ended in a disappointing first round loss in the Class 2, District 1 Tournament, the Sikeston Bulldogs soccer team has plenty of motivation as they get ready for this season.
"We didn't live up to our to potential," senior Evan Underwood said. "But that was mainly because of our work ethic. So this year we're focusing more on conditioning and starting that earlier (in the year) so that by the time the season starts we'll be ready to go.
"It kind of lights a fire in you. You don't want to see that happen again."
Coming in to last season's district tournament the fourth-seeded Bulldogs looked to have a favorable first round match-up in the fifth-seeded Perryville Pirates, a team they had beaten twice, 7-0 and 2-0, in regular season.
Unable to find their offense however, the Bulldogs would watch the Pirates scored two goals in the last eight-minutes to break a scoreless tie and end Sikeston's season.
"We lost to a team we handled pretty good about a week or two earlier." Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said. "So that was a pretty big let down and a bad way to end the season.
"But then again, that's extra motivation going in to this year because (our players) have been thinking about that since we got put out of districts last year. So we're ready to go."
Noe enters his first season as head coach of the Bulldogs after serving as an assistant at Sikeston for eight years. Taken over for Derrick Long following his resignation, Noe expects the transition into his new role to be a smooth one.
"I've coached all these kids and they know me," he said. "I've been around so they know what I want, my mentality and what I expect out of them. So it's a pretty smooth transition so far.
"There's a few small things I'll change with the program in general, but also on the field as far as some personnel, formations and different things. We have some new things we're going to try and the guys seem pretty excited about it."
One obstacle Sikeston will face early on will be filling the holes left by the departure of last year's senior class. In all, Sikeston lost eight players to graduation with three or four regularly starting for the Bulldogs last season.
And while this year's team may be more youth heavy, Noe is confident he has the player's to fill those spots without a loss in production.
"We have some guys that are really stepping up," he said "We have some guys that have been playing jayvee. They've really been working hard in the off season, getting better, and I think they'll be able to step in to some of those roles.
"We have a lot of talent on this team. We're a little young. Sometimes that will hold you back, but I think we're as talented as we've ever been."
Sikeston will get its first test Aug. 30 when they go on the road to take on the Saxony Lutheran Crusaders at 4 p.m.
"That should be a good game," junior Hunter Williams said. "They're a solid team, but we should be able to take care of them."
Senior Daniel Sanders echoed his teammates thoughts.
"I think we have them this year," he said. "Last year I think they only beat us 1-0. We didn't have an offense. This year we have an explosive one so I'm feeling a win."