ARLINGTON -- Last year, with a mixture of upperclassmen as well as several young players, the Arlington Memorial High School boys soccer team finished just over .500 (8-7-1) for the season before being knocked out of the playoffs by eventual Division IV state champion Twin Valley.
This year things may be a bit different, according to Arlington coach Todd Wilkins.
"Expectations are much higher this year," said Wilkins. "They were young. Two of the guys that started up front were freshman last year so they were really young Š Toward the end of the year, they grew tremendously. They grew both mentally and physically over the summer. They played in the offseason on a club team, which is fantastic. So physically they’re better, they’re stronger, they’re faster."
The Eagles have a solid nucleus returning. The pairing of Jared Lacoste and Lucas Stroffoleno up front should provide the Eagles with the ability to put goals on the board.
"The front line, obviously Jared (Lacoste) Š cleared everybody by six or seven assists as a freshman. He was second in goal-scoring last year for the team so I’m hoping for great things out of him [and] of course Luke Stroffoleno who was the leading goal scorer last year," said Wilkins. "He’s a junior this year so we’re really going to be looking for him [to step up.]"
Wilkins continued to say that Stroffoleno may have to "diversify his role" from what it was last year, but expects him to play an important role in the team’s success.
While the midfield is returning, Wilkins said that he is in somewhat of a rebuilding mode on defense after having lost goalie DJ Jennings and Peter Macksey who were defensive anchors for the team.
Filling Jennings’ shoes won’t be easy, but Wilkins said he likes what he has seen out of his keeper in the weeks leading up to the season.
"I have a good freshman goalkeeper, Bailey Cross, who’s been working super hard," said Wilkins. "He’s a great athlete. [He’s] very raw. He’s not going to come out of the gate and be spectacular, but he’s going to be very good."
Brian Morse will back Cross up in goal.
Though he may have lost Jennings and Macksey, Wilkins said he is returning a player on defense that he expects to play an integral role.
"I’m returning a huge player in Nate Mattison. [He’s] a two year starter at the stopper position," said Wilkins. "He’s just bigger and stronger this year. He was my elite player last year as a sophomore. So, he’s going to be the nucleus of the back."
As for the midfield, Wilkins said that some of players who played there last year might be making the switch defense.
"I build my teams from the back forward," said Wilkins. "You can’t always out-score your team. Sometimes you’ve just got to stop them from scoring, but we have enough talent and enough kids to fill those positions."
In addition to talent at a number of different positions on the field, Wilkins said there is also some good leadership among the upperclassmen.
"I’ve got some leaders who are going to be looking to step up and really take control here like Austin Hawley. Ryan Spencer and Konnor Andrews are both seniors. They’re four year players. Konnor is a four-year starter. Ryan is at least a three-year starter with some very key time as a freshman," Wilkins said. "So, I’m looking for those guys to step up and take this pretty young team Š and take them to that next level."
Parker Blomberg, Zach Blum, Riley Britton, Chris Condon, Dalton Duffany, Brandon Gamble, Clay Hoyt, Keyshawn King, Lane Nolan, Ethan Olson, Alex Paustian, Zach Rogers, Jacob Smith, and Michael Stroffoleno round out the varsity roster.