Panthers to build on last year’s success
The Mt. Pleasant boys’ soccer team is focused this season on an improved offense, building on last year’s success.
“The potential for great success is in place for this spring,” Coach Neil Schmitz said. “With a veteran team in place, we expect to build on the scoring success of last year. With seven starters returning, including key players at every position, the team has a wealth of experience for the 2013 season.”
The Panthers lost a couple of their top midfielders to graduation, including second-leading scorer Michael Schmitz, but see many of their top returners back for this season.
“The depth of players as well as the versatility of individual players at the midfield position is a vast improvement from previous years,” Schmitz said. “This will allow the team to generate more scoring opportunities.”
The Panthers return their leading scorer, senior Bo Vitale, who had 23 goals last season.
They also bring back seniors Anh Le, Brach Prough, Liam Clancy and Derek Holtkamp. The Panthers also expect help at midfield from junior Nike Phillips.
Last season saw also significant improvement in the finishing ability of the forward group, according to the coach, and this year’s forwards — junior Yiannis Steryiannis and sophomore Zoom Gwamna — now have another year of experience.
“This, combined with the addition of a few new faces, will create an offense to test the opposition’s defense,” Schmitz said. “In addition, we plan to incorporate our outside backs into our attack and create additional scoring chances.”
The Mt. Pleasant defense is also returning some top players, including senior keeper Michael Alderson.
Schmitz, who is aided by first-year assistant coaches Jag Kang (an IWC soccer player) and Jordon Bell, believes that, like the offense, the defense will continue to build on its recent success.
The Panthers also return senior defenders Jared Beary, JP Keomala and Drake Martin.
They will be getting help from fellow seniors Braden Holtkamp, Carlos Orellana and Lincoln Cornell.
The Panthers went 10-8 last season, including an 8-7 record in the regular season. They finished third in the conference.
Schmitz, who is in his eighth season as the Panthers’ head coach, expects that this year’s race for the conference will be a close one, with Mt. Pleasant, Fairfield and Keokuk once again the top three teams.
Last year’s district tournament may have been an example of what’s to come.
“Last year’s district tournament match with Fairfield was one of the most closely contested and well-played games of the season,” Schmitz said.
“The Panthers won 3-2 to avenge two regular season losses and advance to the district championship game for the first time in the last eight years.”
And that’s the kind of success they aim to build on.
The Panthers open their season at Centerville on April 2 and host Keokuk in their home opener on April 11 at East Lake Park.