(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- They know what it feels like now.
They've experienced great success and want nothing more than to repeat it.
The Sikeston Bulldogs soccer team broke numerous solo and team records last season and set new heights inside their own program. The most wins, most shutouts, and most goals in one game from an individual are all school records that fell.
They also won the school's first postseason game ever as well as their first district championship since 2005.
"Once you taste some of that success, it's something you don't want to go without," Sikeston head coach Doyle Noe said. "We want to get back to that level and hopefully get better as the year goes on and make another run."
Although he's proud of what his team accomplished just a season ago, Noe wants his Bulldogs to be more than just a one-trick pony.
"You try to move forward. You don't want to live in the past," he said. "Obviously, last year was a great year for us, but the great teams can do that more than once. We want to sustain that level and try to take it a step further."
And they have the personnel to do it.
The Bulldogs, who were a record-setting 20-5 last season, will have speed to burn on both ends of the field. They return their leading goal-scorer, Brandon Goodwin, as well as the bulk of an already stout defense that set the school record for shutouts in a season last year.
"We're going to be very athletic -- a very strong and aggressive team," Noe said. "I think we have a good mix of everything."
Goodwin burst onto the scene last season as a junior.
Following an injury to freshman starter Tyler McClinton, Goodwin seized the voided starting position and never looked back.
"It was a nice surprise. I knew he was a solid player, but I didn't quite see him where he is now," Noe said. "We're looking for him to be our key scorer going into this season."
Goodwin led the team with 27 goals, including seven in one game -- a school record -- last season.
Although, Goodwin will be without his running-mate and team captain last season, Hunter Williams.
Williams was a dynamic player for the Bulldogs a season ago scoring 26 goals and adding another 21 assists. Goodwin took a lot of the pressure off of Williams, who was keyed upon by opposing defenses, constantly.
"You're going to miss all the goals he scored and all of the things he was able to do," Noe said "But I think it just opens up the door for other guys to step up."
Goodwin, a senior, will be at the forefront of an aggressive and speedy top half of the offense along with McClinton at the other forward position.
McClinton will be another capable scoring threat for the Bulldogs. The sophomore is a speedy player who can whip around defenders just as easily as beating them down the field in a foot race.
"You can't teach speed or quickness. That's a great weapon to go along with a great shot," Noe said about McClinton. "I have high expectations for Tyler. This year he's going to have to step into more of a key role and I think he's capable of doing that.
"We're going to come at guys with a lot of speed with Tyler and Brandon up top," Noe added. "They look to shoot and score quite a bit. We're going to take it at other teams."
Defensively is where the Bulldogs' biggest advantage may lie.
Although they lost goalie Michael Gipson to graduation, Noe may have found a viable replacement.
Josh Hampton, who was a defenseman last season, will step into the keeper role to try and duplicate Gipson's success. Gipson, who is currently playing soccer for Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., set the school-record for shutouts and wins as a goalie.
"He's a heck of an athlete -- very similar to Mike," Noe said about Hampton. "Josh was a key defender for me last year. He's a big, strong, athletic, fearless type of player that can be one of, if not, the best around. I'm very confident in Josh and he should have a big year in goal for us."
The improvement of teammates such as Gavin O'Brien and Patrick Smith have enable Noe to place Hampton at the keeper position.
Senior Paul Hughes will anchor the defense at sweeper, along with Stephen Baker and three-year starter, Chase Baron, a junior, as well.
"Our defense is going to be very solid," Noe said. "It has a lot of speed."
Others Noe is hoping to contribute are Hunter Taylor, Audie Hays, Caleb Newton and Jared Boyd. Both Taylor and Hays saw some time at the varsity level last season, but will look to have a deeper role this year.
As for Newton and Boyd, they will step out of the junior varsity realm and are expected to fill certain voids.
Sikeston's first game will be Aug. 24 at the Carbondale Invitational Tournament at Carbondale, Ill.