The Thunder Mountain boys’ soccer team expects improvement in 2011, and it will depend on an old face in a new position to help meet increased expectations.
An assistant coach in the program’s first year, head coach Ry Walters said this young team has promise. With only one senior in the entire program, the outlook is positive for the Falcons.
But first things first, Walters said: He needed to get accustomed to the role of lead man.
“As an assistant coach, I don’t think you realize some of the behind-the-scenes work going on,” he said with a smile. “And we’ve had some bumps and bruises, but we’re able to field a full squad. We’re feeling good.”
Walters said his side has worked hard to progress in its style of play. Thunder Mountan spent most of its time last season teaching the basics, but this year it’s time to expand.
“We’ve worked really hard to implement a new style of offense that’s a little faster, quicker — one-touch soccer,” Walters said. “We’re kind of styling it after the professional game, whereas last year we really focused on the fundamentals of the game.”
The Falcons will once again be a defensive-minded team focused on building from the back and protecting the net. Walters said sophomore captain Travis Johnson will anchor the back line alongside sophomore Stephen Ringle and juniors Allen Shaw and Coltin Lans.
“Travis really holds them together. He’s the glue of the back line and has been doing a great job,” Walters said. “(Ringle, Shaw and Lans are) all excellent players who bring a unique ability to the game, and we feel we need to keep our strength in the back so we can work forward from there.”
Walters said he expects sophomore Ben Jahn and junior Ojyo Yo to be the central influences on the pitch, with sophomores Ty Grussendorf and Alex Banaszak primarily running the wings.
“We have a lot of speed and athleticism on the outside, and everyone’s taking what we’re giving them,” Walters said. “And we have a strikeforce we haven’t seen, yet. We had a couple of guys out this weekend with David Deleyser and Ben Jahn, and we also have Saul Santana and Brandon Monges, who has already put two away.”
Walters said Deleyser and Ben Jahn will just add to a team that is significantly more athletic than last year’s.
Basketball crossover Matt Seymour will hold down the goal for the Falcons, and Walters said he loves what he brings to the table.
“Matt has been incredible so far. He brings a natural athleticism to the game that you don’t often see,” he said. “He uses his basketball skills to great effect, which really helps his hands.”
Johnson echoed Walters sentiment of excitement after Saturday’s win.
“Just the experience of having that first year and getting some of these incoming freshmen and new players like Ojyo, Ben Jahn and Matt Seymour, that helps,” Johnson said. “And the coaches are pretty good, too.”
He also said the improvement in this year’s group is evident.
“It’s way better. We have more experience with better ball control and passing,” Johnson said. “We’re faster, stronger and smarter with better decision making.”
Yo, an exchange student originally from Beijing, was relaxed in his first games as a Falcon.
“We’re also younger, and cooler,” he laughed. “I feel we have a very good defense, and this year we need to possess the ball more. We didn’t have Ben (Jahn) and David (Deleyser) today, and they’re both good, fast players.
“So when we get them back we’ll score more.”
The optimism is high amongst players and coaches alike, but Walters knows the challenges that will pop up in a conference that features the defending state champion Crimson Bears.